Fires largely stayed away from the region through the summer, but no one doubts they'll be back.  And so debates and discussions about how to best manage open land for fire resilience continue. 

William Simpson wants to add an element to the discussion: wild horses.  His plan for a "Wild Horse Fire Brigade" would introduce wild horses to forest and field, in the hope that they will eat some of the smaller fuels that can lead to bigger fires. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, by AlbertHerring, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29814833

There was a great deal of discussion during the recent smoky fire seasons of the need for prescribed burning.  It results in some smoke under controlled conditions outside of fire season, in the hope that there won't be a lot of uncontrolled burning IN fire season. 

And sure enough, even before fire season ended on the Oregon side, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest began planning for its controlled burning season. 

Cal Fire

Cal Fire officials say a slower fire season has given them more time to ensure property owners are maintaining a defensible space around structures.


The ecological processes in a healthy, living forest are different from those in a forest where a fire has burned.  But how?  Some of the answers turn out to be surprising, especially when it comes to how water moves across and into the landscape. 

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory ("Berkeley Lab") used computers to model how water--in both snow and liquid form--is absorbed and evaporated in a key California watershed.  Where the researchers expected less evaporation, the model shows more. 


We can agree that wildfire is natural in western forests, and at the same time not want fires to burn down our houses.  Some hard lessons have been learned about fire behavior in recent years. 

It would certainly help if fires were more predictable, and they just might be.  Researchers at the University of California-Irvine used machine learning, a kind of artificial intelligence, to predict how big a wildfire might get, based on the ignition point and the conditions where the fire started. 

Geoffrey Riley/JPR News

Many people around the region have had to confront the possibility of losing their homes to wildfire.  The progression may seem simple, load-evacuate-survive, but it's not simple for everyone. 

Challenges from lack of a car to physical disabilities could hinder evacuation.  JPR's April Ehrlich gauged the effects of wildfire on diverse populations in Northern California in a series called "Oppressed By Wildfire."

The series will run the rest of this week (September 24-27) on The Exchange. 

Image of forest on fire
skeeze via Pixabay

Governor Kate Brown’s Council on Wildfire Response held a meeting to discuss new wildfire management plans on Monday. Their draft proposal is already getting pushback from one firefighting group.

Skeez / Pixabay

Most of this summer has been relatively mild, but memories of large fires and widespread smoke are still fresh from the last two years. 

Jackson County commissioners put some money and political muscle into a campaign to convince the federal government to fully supress all wildfires.  The feds own more than half of all the land in the county. 

The campaign includes video components and a petition to Congress. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49765293

An encroaching wildfire is one of scariest situations any of us can face.  Evacuating people is one thing: grab important stuff, get in the car, and go. 

The process gets far more complicated when there are livestock animals to transport.  Southern Oregon Emergency Aid is set up to help livestock owners get their animals to safety when an evacuation is ordered. 

Tami Bishop and Linda Bacon of SOEA join us on the phone. 


Large parts of rural Josephine County do not have fire districts in the local government sense.  They are instead protected by private businesses that perform fire and medical emergency services for fees. 

An advisory vote last spring showed strong support for the formation of a rural fire district, and the legislature allocated some money for the project in an appropriations bill late in the session.

State Senator Herman Baertschiger of Grants Pass is the Republican leader in the senate. 

April Ehrlich/JPR News

We devote several segments of this week's Exchange to a one-year lookback to the Carr Fire and its ongoing effects in the Redding area. 

But JPR News has other avenues of approach to covering wildfire past and present.  Exchange producer and reporter April Ehrlich has been working for months on collecting the individual stories of people who live in communities affected by wildfire. 


To the people in a two-horse hack in August 1902, the forest fire off to their left seemed a safe distance away.

University of Oregon

There are still people who spend their summers on mountaintop perches, scanning the horizon for wildfires.  But lookouts staffed by live humans have largely been replaced with remote cameras. 

And networks of cameras are being combined into a system called ALERTWildfire, a joint project of the University of Oregon and several other schools and agencies.  It bears some resemblance to the ShakeAlert system for earthquake early warnings. 

And the two programs share some people, including Leland O'Driscoll at UO. 


The last few fire seasons prodded many of us to think differently about wildfire.  People who don't live particularly close to forests became aware of the risk of fires burning through neighborhoods in town, as they did in Redding and Paradise and elsewhere. 

The U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry offer a new tool to get a graphic look at wildfire risk.  It's an online map that incorporates wildfire history and fire risk, the Wildfire Risk Explorer

Bert Johnson/Capital Public Radio

The 2019 fire season is here, and the National Weather Service is issuing a "red flag" warning for this weekend in parts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

North winds will develop overnight on Friday, and will increase on Saturday to become “quite strong,” according to NWS meteorologist Cory Mueller.


The destructive fire seasons of recent years have focused attention anew on evacuation. Plans for getting people away from fires were not adequate in both Paradise and Redding last year.

Now emergency managers are reconsidering evacuation planning on both sides of the state line. Emergency Management leaders at all levels have some ideas about how to proceed, while the fire department in Redding and the American Red Cross have some hard-earned experience.

The last few fire seasons have a lot of people thinking about smoke.  And one issue raised is the possibility of more controlled burns during the non-fire season. 

That would likely mean a bit of smoke in the fall, winter, and spring, in the hope of a lot LESS smoke in the summer.  Stanford University weighs in with a recent study that shows wildfire smoke is worse for children than the smoke from controlled burns.  


There were some complaints about the formation of the Oregon Wildfire Council, ordered by Governor Kate Brown. 

The complaints generally held that Oregon's recent wildfires demanded more robust action than some kind of committee.  But Ashland State Representative Pam Marsh is glad to be on the council, looking for appropriate actions to curtail the danger of wildfire and smoke. 


It's not officially fire season yet on both sides of the state line, but tell that to the fires, like the two fires (near Butte Falls and Chiloquin) that scorched hundreds of acres in recent days. 

Hot weather is here and more regular fires will almost assuredly follow.  Agencies of many types are talking about preparedness. 

Those include Pacific Gas & Electric, which is blamed for some of the fires of recent years. PG&E plans more outages during times of high wildfire risk. 

And Ashland's CERT or Community Emergency Response Team is always trained for emergencies. 


What started out as a summer job became a lifetime vocation for Clay Dickerson. 

The summer job was working on a fire crew near Grants Pass, and it led to a career that stretched across four decades, taking care of the region's forests and fighting fires when they burned. 

Clay tells the story in his memoir, Fire at My Feet