Lackluster rainy season spells trouble for fire outlook

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — John Saltenberger, Fire Weather program manager with Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said there is an above normal significant wildland fire potential, meaning there’s a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildland fires will occur.

Though the Pacific Northwest has seen major improvements in drought status, with only a small percentage of Oregon considered abnormally dry, we can’t play catch up this late in the rainy season when we’re in a deficit of -6.83″ (Oct.1 – Sep. 30) and behind Jan. 1 to date -4.08″.

When asked about historic record keeping of drought status for Oregon and Washington, Saltenberger couldn’t recall a time when the Pacific Northwest was completely free of even the most minor drought status.

Snowpack was impressive but really only for elevations at 5,000′ and higher. Flakes that fell at or below mountain passes have gone away with warmer temps. This is one of many contributing factors to fire danger as we transition from cold moist air to hot, dry days. The outlook for temperatures this month calls for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. That warm, dry trend carries over to significant fire potential this spring and summer. A higher percentage of the western states can expect above normal significant wildland fires as we graduate through the summer months.

Hear more from John Saltenberger below:

Burn bans

Marion and Polk Counties issued burn bans lasting from May 8 to May 12 due to forecasted high temperatures during that timeframe and dry conditions. 

A burn ban was also issued May 9 for “all Washington County Fire Departments” and will be in effect “until further notice,” according to the Gaston Rural Fire District. TVF&R also issued a burn ban in its jurisdiction, which includes parts of Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas and Yamhill counties. 

Starting May 9, outdoor burning won’t be allowed in Linn, Yamhill, Cowlitz, Clark and Skamania counties. 

Questions about the bans can be directed to local fire departments. 

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