Active wildfire season still underway as summer wraps up

Wildfires

We cannot afford to let our guard down

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As we round the corner into fall, it’s easy to assume our wildfire season should be wrapping up soon — but it was this time last year when record-breaking blazes first sparked around the state.

This Monday marks one year since the start of 2020’s historic wildfire season in Oregon. Last year proved that even in September, the region can still be subject to some extreme fires.

The Northwest Coordination Center is a network of agencies in Oregon and Washington that consists of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. The agency aims to gather all fire information around the region and determine priority levels for where resources should go.

Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokesperson for the NWCC, told KOIN 6 News Oregon currently has the highest level of priority — second only to California.

“Right now, we’re at what we call “preparedness level 5.” That means we are at the highest level of resource needs and the highest level of demands,” Nelson-Dean explained. “We are at a record right now, we are at 52 days of preparedness level 5.”

Crews from the southwest, the Great Basin, and the Northern Rockies are in Oregon and Washington helping out with demand.

Although Nelson-Dean says we are still in an active fire season, she wants to assure people we don’t need to be afraid of suffering the losses we did last year.

“We’re in a different place right now in terms of we’re not expecting a large wind event, certainly not a historic wind event and our fire behavior as we’ve modeled it looks to be much more moderate,” Nelson-Dean said. “I want to reassure folks that we aren’t expecting that activity that we had last year.”

She emphasized crews are working hard and are doing their jobs — but more starts are the last thing the state needs. The relative humidity and cooling at night help, but we still have really dry fuels and we are still in a drought — and we cannot afford to let our guard down.

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