Extreme fire weather forecast in Jackson County
High winds, heat and dry conditions have created an ideal formula for new wildfires in Southern Oregon and Northern California, according to the National Weather Service.
A red flag warning, issued when conditions make the terrain ripe for new fire starts, is in effect until 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"Strong, gusty wind with low relative humidity and high fire danger along with poor relative humidity recoveries will likely contribute to a significant spread of new and existing fires," a Weather Service bulletin said.
Smoke joins the local forecast, too, because of an overnight wind shift from the east, bringing in smoke from other fires in the state, according to the National Weather Service.
At 4 p.m. Monday, a good chunk of Jackson County's air quality was in the "moderate" category. Twelve hours later, it had plummeted to a mix of "unhealthy" and "very unhealthy," according to the Environmental Protection Agency air quality monitoring website AirNow. Medford and Ashland air monitoring stations read unhealthy at 4 a.m. Tuesday, and the Applegate Valley was "very unhealthy."
"The flow turned fairly quickly to the northeast last evening and then to the east this morning," National Weather Service meteorologist Connie Clarstrom said.
A low pressure system that moved from north to south over the east side of an area of high pressure loitering over the western states is responsible, Clarstrom said. Winds increased and, in some cases, saw rapid direction shifts.
Late Tuesday, a new fire started in Klamath County near Chiloquin that exploded quickly. The Two Four Two fire is burningnorth of Collier Springs on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, according to a U.S. Forest Service news release. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was up to more than 2,000 acres with no containment. About 400 homes are threatened. A Level 3 "go now" evacuation was in effect for the south side of Highway 422 North to the junction highways 97 and 62 south of Chiloquin.
"[The fire] continues to be wind-driven, moving to the south and southwest," the release said. "The fire is currently estimated to have burned at least four miles from its initial point and the winds are not letting up."
Level 3 evacuation notices are also in effect for parts of Douglas County because of the French Creek fire, burning about a mile northwest of Glide, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association. As of about 5 a.m. Tuesday, the fire had grown to 300 acres.
The notice extends to residents of Single Tree Lane, Rivershore Drive and residents living along North Bank Road between the west side of Rivershore Drive and the Bridge. A Level 2 "get set" evacuation notice remains in place for homes along French Creek Road.
The America Red Cross will have resources at the Glide Middle School parking lot for homeowners who had to leave their homes, fire officials said.
Overnight winds knocked out power for more than 20,000 Oregonians, with a majority in the Salem-Albany area west to the Oregon Coast near Lincoln City.
A Jackson County wind advisory is in effect until 2 p.m. Wednesday, according to a Weather Service bulletin. Winds could reach speeds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 45 mph.
"These downsloping winds will be warm and very dry, with relative humidity dropping into the single digits," a Weather Service bulletin said.
All told, it's "a pretty strong event for us to see," Clarstrom said.
"Take extra care the next couple days," she said.
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