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All of Oregon is now in fire season

Smoke from the Willowcreek Fire in Eastern Oregon, Tuesday June 28, 2022.
Smoke from the Willowcreek Fire in Eastern Oregon, Tuesday June 28, 2022.

Heavy rains delayed the start of wildfire season for many parts of Oregon, but hotter, drier conditions are on the way.

The Oregon Department of Forestry announced Monday that all of its fire districts, which combined cover about 16 million acres, are officially in wildfire season.

Heavy and in some cases record-breaking rainfall staved off the start of the season for parts of the state. But with drier, hotter conditions here or on the way statewide, fire officials are urging Oregonians to prepare and take steps to prevent human-caused blazes.

The official start of fire season means people can expect public use restrictions such as campfire bans for parts of Oregon where fire danger is high, said Jessica Prakke, public affairs officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“It’s the responsibility of all of us to prevent wildfires,” Prakke said.

The Department of Forestry recommends drowning campfires, routinely monitoring debris piles, not parking cars on dry grass and properly disposing of cigarettes among other measures. The fewer human-caused fires on the landscape, Prakke added, the more resources fire officials can devote to other blazes.

The latest fire season outlook from the predictive services unit at the National Interagency Fire Center shows the highest fire risk in Central and Southern Oregon from the Columbia River down to the California border as well as Southeast Oregon for July. Northwest Oregon has below-normal potential for large wildland fires this month.

All the spring moisture has contributed to the growth of grasses and shrubs, which could create issues later in the summer.

“Once they dry out — which they can dry out very quickly — they’ll be able to catch much easier and those fuels burn very quickly,” Prakke said.

The Willowcreek Fire north of Ontario has been the largest fire in Oregon this year, burning more than 40,000 acres of rangeland in a few days.

Otherwise, fire activity has been minimal in the Beaver State. The Oregon Department of Emergency Management reports just four active fires burning less than half an acre total as of Monday. Oregon has no large active fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Future fire outlooks show a high fire risk spreading to the western part of Oregon in August and September.

Find information for how to prepare for fire, smoke and heat this summer here.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.