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Meteorologist Clinton Rockey says rain has 'helped take the edge off,' although the region is still in a drought.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA RIVER FIRE AND RESCUE - Columbia River Fire & Rescue issues burn permits for St. Helens- and Rainier-area residents.It's a short period of time, but St. Helens has announced the fall burn period for residential open burning in the city.

The burn period runs from Saturday, Oct. 16, through Sunday, Oct. 31. Burn periods enable residents to burn yard debris. The regulations don't apply to charcoal barbecues or recreational outdoor fire pits.

The announcement comes days after burn bans were lifted across the region after one of the hottest summers on record.

Vast swaths of the West have experienced drought conditions this year, well exceeding the norm in most areas. Oregon has not been spared, with even the typically temperate northwest part of the state in moderate to severe drought.

Columbia County is currently in a state of moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a partnership between federal agencies and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that tracks conditions across the country.

"We're not out of it yet, but we've definitely made huge strides to improve over the last few weeks," said Clinton Rockey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. "Even next week, we still see a lot more rain coming. At this point in time, I don't see any reason why we're not going to get back into perfect conditions again here, pretty soon."

Rockey said that although drought conditions persist, fall rains have already brought a couple of inches of precipitation to the region.

"That's helped take the edge off," said Rockey.

During extremely dry, or even normal years, Eric Smythe, a division chief at Columbia River Fire & Rescue, said it's always important to observe the burn rules.

"It is important to observe your surroundings and follow the local burn guidelines by not only the Oregon Department of Forestry, but the fire districts that serve that community," he said.

Columbia River Fire & Rescue serves the St. Helens and Rainier areas.

Smyth offered some guidelines for people who wish to burn outdoors during the upcoming burn period.

"People should not leave their burn piles unattended," he said. "They should always have a water source and an ability to throw dirt or protect anything outside of the area that's actually being burned."

A burn permit must be obtained through Columbia River Fire & Rescue. These residential permits are available through the fire district's website or at the district's administrative office, located at 270 Columbia Blvd. in St. Helens.

Although the National Weather Service is expecting more rain, because drought conditions are lingering, St. Helens officials advise residents to call the burn line at 503-397-4800 to confirm it is an open burn day if they plan to burn, even during the prescribed fall burn period. Burn bans may still be in effect even if you have obtained a burn permit.

Burn permits last for one year from the date of issue.

St. Helens also has a spring burn period, typically in May.

Burning can only be conducted during daylight hours, but you are not allowed to burn grass clippings, plastics, household garbage, petroleum products or rubber products.

During the month of November, Hudson Garbage Service will pick up yard debris bins on a weekly basis at no additional charge to customers who live inside St. Helens city limits, city officials say.

If you would like more information on burn permits, you can call Columbia River Fire & Rescue at 503-397-2990.

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