Wildfire Warning in Southern Oregon

Fire weather watchCENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Extremely dry weather will combine with gusty, dry winds this week to increase the risk of fire in Southern Oregon. And if the weather pattern continues, that risk of wildfire could stick around for a long time, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The Rogue Valley is under a Red Flag Warning, which means conditions are dry enough to potentially start a wildfire. The lack of rain in the region means that vegetation has not received enough moisture, and are now dry, flashy fire fuels. Brian Ballou of ODF said the combination of dry winds and dry vegetation could mean plenty of fuel if a fire were to start.

“With wind on it, it could carry very rapidly,” he said.

Ballou also said the region could see a very active fire season this summer if weather models predicting dry weather prove to be true. He said a best case scenario would be a similar fire season to 2013, when more than 100,000 acres burned.

Local fire departments are also gearing up in case of a fire start. Ashland firefighters have already loaded wildfire gear into their wildland vehicles, and said they will be ready this weekend if a fire were to start.

“Typically they take this gear off and don’t put it back on our apparatus until May or June or whenever it looks like the fuels have gotten dry,” said Chris Chambers of Ashland Fire.

The public is being warned to be extremely careful using open flames, and to make sure sparks from fires or machinery do not carry into nearby vegetation.