PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Most wildfires throughout the Northwest have continued to grow as crews continue battling against them.
Officials say the growth is mostly due to wind and is what they expected. Although it does not come as a surprise to them, they do say it’s overwhelming.
Now, the Northwest Interagency Center is coordinating the firefight for 15 large uncontained fires in the region, including eight in Washington and seven in Oregon. However, as all of these fires expand simultaneously, resources are getting stretched.
“We are in competition with resources throughout the nation,” Northwest Interagency Center Public Information Officer Carol Connolly explained. “The Northwest is priority number two for resource allocation. We do have fires that are in need of some aviation and some middle management, so we’re working with our national office to acquire those folks to come into the Northwest to help us.”
The top priority in the nation for wildfire resources is currently the Northern Rockies, which includes Montana, Idaho and Colorado. These states are experiencing extreme fires as well.
The Northwest is still a couple of days out from getting resources from other states, such as Alaska and the southern part of the United States. Logistically speaking, it takes time to transport the equipment and get people out here.
Meanwhile, fire officials can’t stress enough how important it is to be very mindful of fire danger when out using public and private lands. The hot, dry and windy conditions have set the area up like a tinder box.
Unfortunately, fire officials told KOIN 6 News they don’t think they’re going to get a lot of relief from the weather over the next couple of days. Strong, gusty winds through the Cascades and through the Eastside Basins are still expected all day and into the night.
Not to mention, Connolly says firefighters are working against relatively low humidity 24/7 — and she says it will stay that way through the weekend.
“What that means is, we are having fire activity not only during the day — but it’s also at night,” she said. “That’s a concern of our fire managers out there. However, we are expecting that temperatures are going to start easing into seasonal norms. So while it’s hot and dry right now, we’re hoping that those temperatures will decrease a little bit and give our firefighters some relief.”
With fire danger above average in most parts of the Northwest, Connolly says they’re worried about new fires starting and taking off.
With these latest wildfires raging on throughout the night, firefighters are needing to swap out shifts to be able to come in as fresh as possible. Many of them have been at this since the spring — putting out hundreds of fires already.
With this early and dramatic jump on the wildfire season, those fire crews are doing their best work possible. Last year at this time, a historic year for wildfires in Oregon, only 27,000 acres were burning. That means the fires in 2021 are already 15 times bigger than last year.
The cause of all the major fires in Oregon is still under investigation. Lightning fires are not preventable, but NWIC officials said every human-caused fire will take critical resources from these large fires.
“Know what fire restrictions are in the area,” Connolly said. “It’s a long summer. We’re already ahead of where we were last year. And these men and women that are out there on the line, they need a break too, so let’s help them.”