Fire danger in Jackson and Josephine counties will heat up to high beginning Independence Day.
Citing an unusually dry spring and recent broiling temperatures, the Oregon Department of Forestry said increased restrictions that come with the new level are a necessary precaution, given the explosive potential for wildfires in the region.
"With the high temperatures and area being drier than normal, we are bumping up the restrictions," said Caitlin Goins, spokeswoman for ODF's Southwest Oregon District which blankets the two counties.
The local start of high fire danger is about a week earlier than last year.
With Thursday marking the traditional Fourth of July festivities, officials are urging the public to use extreme caution because of the growing fire danger.
"We want to make sure people use fireworks only where they are allowed," she said. "As far as forestland, no fireworks are permitted on any forest."
Residents should check with local authorities if they have any questions regarding the use of fireworks, she said.
Wildland fire starts are currently about 30 percent higher compared with last year on lands protected by the district, she said, noting there are 109 starts thus far, compared to 89 last year at this time. Of those, 85 were human-caused this year, she said.
The district covers 1.8 million acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state, county and private lands.
"We're looking at the possibility of lightning for the next two days," Goins said. "We will have extra patrols out."
— Paul Fattig