Veteran firefighter Brian Ballou will tell you that July was an unusually quiet month for Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters in Jackson and Josephine counties.
But local residents are being asked to be even more vigilant beginning Monday when fire danger is raised to the high level, or yellow, in the agency's Southwest Oregon District, thanks to a drying trend.
The change increases restrictions on fire use to 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management lands protected by ODF in the two counties.
The fire-danger level also will be increased to the high category in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. ODF and the U.S. Forest Service work together in determining fire danger.
However, Ballou said high fire danger normally begins in late June or early July, not August. It started in mid-July last year. The unusually wet spring delayed the beginning of high fire level this year.
"But the fuel moisture is finally beginning to drop off sharply now," he said. "That's an indicator to us that fires will be starting easier and moving much more aggressively."
The National Weather Service office at the Medford airport is calling for highs in the 90s and 80s this week with a chance of thunderstorms.
Very few thunderstorms struck in July in the two counties, an unusual occurrence, Ballou said.
With high fire danger, restrictions include:
All debris burning, including debris burned in burn barrels, already is prohibited throughout the counties.
The industrial-fire precaution level will remain at level one.
For a compilation of the fire restrictions, check out the website at www.swofire.oregon.gov.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.