PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It’s past mid-July and so far, wildfire season in Oregon has been fairly tame (knock on wood).
After deadly wildfires scorched millions of acres in Oregon in the last two years, the state entered 2022 prepared for the worst.
But so far, a wet spring and a cooler summer have kept most fires at bay and caused some people to wonder: when was the last time there wasn’t a wildfire burning at this point in the summer?
According to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC), it actually hasn’t been that long since there wasn’t a fire burning on July 19.
There weren’t any wildfires burning in the state at this time in 2016. But it didn’t take long for the situation to change. The first weekend of August, more than 40 lightning-caused wildfires started on Oregon Department of Forestry lands.
Emergency personnel worked together to prevent all but two of these fires from growing to 10 acres or more.
Fire activity in 2016 peaked in late August with significant fires west of the Cascades, including the 2500 Road Fire, the Cleveland Ridge Fire, and the High Pass 12.5 Fire.
Challenging fire conditions persisted in 2016 until mid-October.
The NWCC’s data on large wildfires date back to 1992. Between that year and now, there were five years where there were no wildfires burning in Oregon on July 19: 2016, 2011, 2010, 2006 and 1999.
While it’s refreshing to enjoy smoke-free skies in July of this year, the NWCC said the thing it’s excited about is seeing significantly fewer acres burned so far in 2022 than at this time last year.
As of July 19, 2021, there were already 462,046 acres that had burned in large fires across the state.
In 2022 so far, only 40,274 acres have burned.
At this time last year, there had already been 26 large fires in Oregon. In 2022, there has only been one large fire to date – the Willowcreek Fire, which burned near Vale.
While 40,274 acres is a significant improvement over 2021, it’s still significantly more than in other recent years.
The chart below shows the year-to-date acres burned each year as of July 19.
Having only one large wildfire so far this year is unusual for Oregon. This is the fewest large fires Oregon has had as of July 19 for the last decade.
A large fire is one that burns 100 acres or more in timber or 300 acres or more in grass or brush.
Research from the group First Street Foundation determined that within the next 30 years, more than 1.1 million properties — 61% of all properties — in the Beaver State may see some risk of being affected by wildfire.
As of Thursday, July 21, less than 2% of Oregon remained in exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, more than 30% of the state is in extreme drought and more than 66% of the state is experiencing some level of drought.
The NWCC tweeted Thursday saying the state is tip-toeing into wildfire season.