Union Democrat staff

Recent weather forecasts suggest it's unlikely the Central Sierra will receive any form of precipitation through early next week - at least.

Higher than normal temperatures and mostly clear skies are predicted for the area through Tuesday.

The National Weather Service has also issued a "Red Flag Warning" for the Sierra Nevada until 9 a.m. Friday, due to continued dry conditions and expected winds along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

The National Weather Service said a high-pressure ridge off the West Coast is responsible for the dry weather.

Long-term weather models predicted that the stubborn ridge is likely to remain intact over the next two weeks.

The prolonged dryness has prompted the Capital Region of the American Red Cross to begin urging foothill residents to prepare for elevated wildfire risks this year, despite the fact that the annual fire season typically doesn't begin until months from now.

"While this may seem an unusually early start to fire season, disasters can happen at any time, and it is important that we all take steps to be ready just in case, " said Kathleen Weis, CEO for the Red Cross, Capital Region.

Here are a number of tips the organization provided to help residents prepare for wildfires:

• Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home.

• Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.

• Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools, such as a rake, ax, hand saw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel.

• Select fire-resistant building materials and plants.

• Regularly clean roofs and gutters.

• Assemble or replenish family emergency kits.

• Plan and practice two ways out of your neighborhood, in case your primary route is blocked.

• Select a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in the event you cannot get home or need to evacuate.

• Identify someone who is out of the area to contact if local phone lines are not working.

For more information on wildfire safety, check the "preparedness section" at www.redcross.org.