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Oregon wildfire outlook: normal until July

GRANTS PASS — Oregon is expected to see above-normal wildfire danger starting in July, and fire seasons imposing restrictions on open burning are starting in the southwestern corner of the state.

The National Interagency Fire Center's latest report on nationwide wildfire potential shows much of Oregon at normal in June, with drier areas of the state moving into above normal. By July, above normal fire potential spreads across the Northwest, and continues through September.

"The focus of above normal fire activity during the core of the fire season will likely be in the Northwest," the report said.

East of the Cascades, more lightning than usual is expected in July and August, which the report says "will prove to be the deciding factor for the intensity of fire season 2015."

Last year Oregon saw more than 3,000 wildfires burn nearly 1 million acres — about 1,500 square miles — of forest and rangeland, the fire center reports.

Long-range forecasts from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center call for summer to be warmer and drier than average.

In the short term, late spring rain has moistened trees, brush and grass, but as summer wears on, wildfire activity is expected to become "robust," the report said.

"This will be amplified by the lack of snowpack at higher elevations, which should allow the conditions necessary for long duration timber fires to occur unusually early," the report said.

Fire seasons are starting in the southwestern corner of the state. The Oregon Department of Forestry is declaring fire season starting Friday in Jackson and Josephine counties. That is about the same time as the past two years, said Department of Forestry fire prevention specialist Brian Ballou. Fire danger will begin at moderate. Outdoor burning and fireworks will be prohibited on state-protected lands.

"This will be the third drier-than-normal fire season in a row for southwest Oregon," state District Forester Dan Thorpe said in a statement.

Fire restrictions also went into effect on the so-called wild section of the Rogue River, popular with whitewater rafters, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Six small lightning fires were put out after being ignited Sunday evening in Douglas County.

In this Sept. 14, 2014, file photo, a plume of smoke churns out of the Onion Mountain fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest 15 miles west of Grants Pass. AP PHOTO.