Weekend rain could ‘put a fork in fire season 2021’


A moisture-heavy weather system is expected to help quell multiple active wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This weekend could bring much-needed rain to help turn the corner on what’s been a ferocious fire season.

As fires continue to burn in the Pacific Northwest, John Saltenberger with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center is keeping his eye on the sky.

“What’s coming this weekend looks like it is going to go a long way to dropping fire danger in Western Oregon and Western Washington,” he said.

Saltenberger said Wednesday he’s hopeful the coming rain will usher in the beginning of the end of fire season.

“As we get into the later part of September, a rain event that brings two to three inches of rain to us is more effective at holding fire danger down than the same amount of rain earlier in the fire season,” he said. “And that’s simply because the days are getting shorter and the sun angle is getting lower, the nights are getting longer and the recovery period of humidity is better.”

Despite changing weather conditions, firefighters like Salem Fire Battalion Chief Frank Stephenson warn that fire danger is still high. Stephenson’s crews battled a brush fire earlier in the week that forced some evacuations in Salem.

“Even though it’s been cooler, it’s still dry,” he said. “People just need to understand it is still really dry out there. Even though our days are cooler, until we get a lot of rain, we are still going to have issues like this.”

Saltenberger said we might not have to be patient much longer.

“I feel confident in saying — if the rain falls for the amounts and duration as it looks like it’s going to do this weekend, I think we are going to be a long way to putting a fork in fire season 2021,” he said.

With the rain comes an increased risk of landslides and debris flows in burned areas, Saltenberger cautioned. He said fire crews will need to be aware of the dangers, as well as drivers who could come upon impassable roadways.

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