Dry conditions, early wildfires in Oregon ‘worrisome’


Recent fires 'are nail biters because it’s urban interface'

HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — There’s been rain in the region for the past few days, but Hood River County Sheriff Matt English said it’s not enough to alter the 2021 fire season.

“It certainly helps, but I think we’re too far along. We saw our first wildfire in early April,” English told KOIN 6 News. “We started really this year, so it’s worrisome. Certainly rain is helpful and we got a lot yesterday (Sunday), but it’s a lot of things are dry. Wind dries things out. It doesn’t take much time to negate the effects of rain.”

Complete KOIN Coverage: Oregon/Washington wildfires

There were a few fires along I-84 in about a 5-mile stretch this weekend, he said. “They were contained in a couple hours, but it’s a good reminder of fire season and what we’re facing, and what we’re going to have to be on our toes about in the next several months, which is unfortunately becoming an annual reality for Oregon.”

At a recent wildfire training in Molalla, firefighters told KOIN 6 News the fires in western Washington and Oregon are beginning to mimic those on the east side of the Cascades.

One of the issues that concerns officials is the wind the rolls through the Columbia River Gorge.

“Any little fire can take off in a hurry, and we’ve seen that time and time again in the past 3-4 years,” he said.

English has worked in Hood River County for 23 years and said they hadn’t seen fires like the recent blazes until the last decade.

“A lot of them are nail biters because it’s urban interface. So we see a lot of structures that are threatened and we’re doing evacuations regularly during fire season.”

The Eagle Creek Fire provided lessons for fire officials that are put into use now, including the evacuation notices and educating the public about what they mean. People now “opt in” to receive mass notification for evacuations and they also use the sheriff’s app and social media.

English had 2 suggestions for people: sign up for their area’s mass notification systema and have a plan to evacuate, with a go-pack ready and a route in mind.

“The risks are always there. People need to be ultra cautious about following fire restrictions,” he told KOIN 6 News. “Be extra careful camping, following the rules, even working on your property, be mindful and aware.”

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