Triple-digit heat in Medford broke records Sunday and today, and the National Weather Service warns that expected lightning this week could start multiple fires in southwestern Oregon and Northern California.
Today's record high for June 8 — 101 degrees set in 1955 — was smashed at a whopping 105 degrees. Sunday's 101-degree high also toppled a record, set in 1926 at 98 degrees.
The scorching conditions, coupled with lightning-laden thunderstorms expected in portions of southwestern Oregon and Northern California Tuesday and Wednesday, prompted the weather service to issue a red-flag warning for 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday.
"Abundant cloud-to-ground lightning is expected to result in many fire starts due to dry fuel conditions in the watch area," a message from the weather service reads.
"We're expecting some pretty widespread thunderstorms," meteorologist Mike Petrucelli says. "All the ingredients are lining up."
Petrucelli says the Oregon Coast and much of Douglas County likely will be unaffected by the storms, but that "mostly everywhere else (in southwestern Oregon) is kind of free game."
Weather officials say gusty winds of up to 50 mph are possible Tuesday, adding to the risk of potential wildfires, though scattered moderate to heavy rainfall is also expected. Another triple-digit day is predicted, though temperatures are forecast to cool into the low to mid 90s the rest of the week.
Fire season started Friday, meaning burn piles, ditch burns and open-barrel burning are prohibited.
Firefighters in Josephine County already are battling a wildfire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The Red Dog fire, burning in the Wild Rivers Ranger District, had grown to 10 acres today. Located about five miles southwest of Onion Mountain and two miles east of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, the fire likely began with a lightning strike at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, officials say.
A release from the U.S. Forest Service says the fire was burning in brush, slash and timber in steep terrain. As of today, crews had completed a "scratch line" around the fire to help contain it.
Personnel fighting the fire include the Rogue River Interagency Hotshots, Winema Hotshots, two 20-person initial attack contract crews, two engines from the U.S. Forest Service and two helicopters.
"Although there are mining claims in the area, no structures are threatened," the release says.