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Fire Season Officially Starts in Oregon After Wet Spring

While an especially rainy spring delayed the start of wildfire season in Oregon, state officials now say the hot, dry conditions are once again primed for fire activity.

(TNS) — All of Oregon, including the wettest corners of the state, has officially entered fire season, officials announced this week.

The wet spring, which saw numerous rainfall records fall over the past several months, delayed the start of the state’s fire season, according to Mike Shaw, Fire Protection Division Chief with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

But now, with the skies drying out and temperatures rising, it’s crucial for Oregonians to do their parts to prevent the next catastrophic wildfire, he said.

“July and August historically have higher fire activity, and ODF is ready to respond, but we need the cooperation of Oregonians so we don’t strain our resources on fires that could have been avoided,” Shaw said in a statement.

Shaw said the spring rains could also prove to be a double-edged sword. The precipitation prompted growth of fine fuels, like tall grass, that are quickly drying out now that summer weather has arrived. Those grasses can catch fire easily and spread quickly.

Oregon has seen an uptick in catastrophic wildfires in recent years. Last year, the state saw its third largest wildfire in recorded history when the Bootleg fire burned more than 400,000 acres in Klamath and Lake counties.

In 2020, high temperatures and strong east winds whipped up conflagrations across the state over Labor Day weekend. Those fires killed at least 11 people, destroyed thousands of homes and inundated vast areas of the state with heavy smoke for weeks at a time.

Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, caused by climate change, have made conditions more conducive to larger, hotter fires that burn longer and consume more area.

The state forestry department, which oversees firefighting on more than 16 million acres in Oregon, urged residents to fully extinguish campfires, make sure burn piles are completely out before leaving them unattended, never park a vehicle over dry grass and avoid tossing cigarettes onto the ground.

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