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JPR Feature
Smokey Summers Have Been Around A Long Time   
Monday, September 30, 2013
By Amy Couture

In the summer of 2013, forest fires north of the Southern Oregonís Rogue Valley filled the air with smoke. Physical landmarks such as Grizzly Peak and Mount Ashland disappeared in the haze. On especially bad days, people stayed indoors or wore masks outdoors. Some left town to escape the smoke.  

The summer forest fires in Southern Oregon and Northern California have been around for a long time. They were common back in the 1800s when the Talent, Ore., farmer Welborn Beeson mentioned them in his diary.

He said 1860 was a hot, dry summer and the forest fires started early. By June 17, the atmosphere was getting very smoky.  July was dry and hot, and by August farmers were desperate for rain.  On Aug. 17, Beesonís thermometer reached 100 degrees in the shade.  A month later, nothing had changed. The air was still smoky and there was a fire in the mountains south of Talent.  

Finally, on Oct. 7, just as Beeson finished thrashing his wheat and oats with a borrowed machine, a shower of rain fell overnight.  The next morning, there was snow on the mountains to the south and the fire season was over for 1860.   

Source:  Beeson, Welborn. Welborn Beeson Diaries, 1860-1863.  Talent Historical Society.  Print. 

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