The Oregon Department of Forestry on Monday raised the fire danger level to "extreme" for all of southwestern Oregon. The change was prompted by two wildfires in Josephine County last week, along with temperatures reaching triple digits.
"It was a clear sign that it was time to raise the fire danger level," said Brian Ballou, ODF spokesman.
At the extreme fire danger level, chainsaw use and the mowing of dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is banned between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The restrictions do not apply to green lawns or agricultural crops.
Chainsaw users must have an ax, shovel, and fire extinguisher that is eight ounces or larger. A one-hour fire watch is required following mowing or chainsaw work.
Cutting and grinding metal is also restricted between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Debris burning, and the use of fireworks, exploding targets, tracer ammunition is prohibited. Smoking is prohibited except on improved roads.
The Rogue River's Wild & Scenic Section will also observe the restrictions, starting Wednesday. Smoking will be prohibited excepts in boats on the water, and on vegetation-free gravel bars and sand bars below the river's high-water mark. Open fires will be prohibited. Travelers must also carry a shovel and a gallon bucket.
Greg Kleinberg, Medford Fire-Rescue fire marshal, said the restrictions also apply within city limits, depending on where homes and businesses lie.
"If it's green grass, it's fine," Kleinberg said. "In general, in the city down in the valley, mowing grass and doing landscape work is not a problem."
He added area residents should be mindful of surrounding terrain, such as nearby fields and a home or business' proximity to hillsides.
"That's when we really want people to consistently follow the rules that ODF puts out," Kleinberg said.
The new restrictions come on the tail of last week's Pacifica fire, which burned 500 acres near Williams, and destroyed a home and several outbuildings and vehicles.
The National Weather Service reported Monday that daytime high temperatures will range from 99 to 102 this week. Temperatures should start to see a slight drop by the weekend, with highs cooling into the upper 80s by Monday, agency officials reported.
"It's going to cool off, but it's not going to cool off dramatically, and it's going to be gradual," said meteorologist Marc Spilde.
Even then, the fire danger will remain in place until fall.
"We're going to need some rain, and, I mean some very serious rain, before we reverse this fire danger," Ballou said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com.