PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As warmer temperatures spread and drought continues to affect most of the state, the Oregon Fire Department says it is busy preparing a more effective response for the state’s wildfire season.
Chief of Fire Protection Mike Shaw said that some areas of the state will likely see active fires during what may be a complicated season. Oregon has already sent firefighters to Canada, which Shaw said could be a sign of things to come.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation throughout the summer.
The wet and cool May and June that Oregonians experienced in 2022 is unlikely to repeat itself in 2023. Instead, the area will likely experience above-average temperatures – leading vegetation to dry out and snowpack to melt sooner.
Shaw said having enough firefighters and better technology is key to combating these fires. This year, they will have planes, helicopters and drones to help spot fires early. This way, firefighters can contain a fire while it’s small.
“Keeping fires small early is critically important to reducing smoke impacts. That’s why our charge is to go hit the fire as quickly as possible,” Shaw said. “There are times we are not successful. There are days [when] the fire wins. And we have to be prepared for that.”
As for having enough firefighters, volunteer ranks have dwindled in recent years. The Fire Department instead has money to pay for them in 2023, which the department found successful in 2022.
Shaw and Gov. Tina Kotek have urged people living in fire-prone areas to build evacuation kits for the summer, create defensible spaces around their homes and make a plan in case of an emergency.
“Wildfires will forever impact our region, and much of our country. The threats will continue to grow as we grapple with hotter, drier conditions due to climate change,” Kotek said in a statement. “But we have choices in how we prepare and respond. We can create fire-adapted communities. We can develop safer and more effective responses to support fire personnel.”