wildfire 2018

USFS/Darren Stebbins

How bad was last summer for tourism in the region?  Millions of dollars bad, with cancellations and actual destruction from fire and smoke reaching new levels. 

California, Oregon, and Washington tourism officials have banded together as the West Coast Tourism Recovery Coalition, with one major goal: convince potential visitors that it's safe to visit here.  That might be tricky, especially since longtime residents have their own complaints about the quality of life in the summer. 

Visit California and Travel Oregon officials are assembling plans and approaches. 


Increasingly, wildfires and the smoke they cause are becoming the daily reality of summer in southern Oregon and northern California. On Saturday, several hundred people gathered at Southern Oregon University to hear a series of panel discussions on how local communities could respond.


UPDATE: FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 9:30 a.m. -- Cooler, moister weather conditions are giving fire crews the change to make strong progress in containing the Delta fire. It's grown slightly to just over 60,000 acres and is 28 percent contained.

I-5 remains open and traffic is flowing while repairs are being made to guardrails and other infrastructure damaged by the fire.

NOTE: Since this fire seems to be in hand, we will make further updates to this report only if new developments warrant. To follow the daily updates issued by managers on the Delta fire, follow this link.

Liam Moriarty.JPR News

In late July, the Carr fire swept through parts of Redding, California and the surrounding area. Now, residents are faced with burned hillsides and more than a thousand home sites contaminated with toxic ash. What are the potential environmental impacts? JPR’s Liam Moriarty went to find out.


Fire season clearly still has a while to go, but it's never too early to talk about what happened this year, and why. 

A Smoke and Fire Summit is set for next weekend (Saturday, September 15th) at Southern Oregon University, to help people better understand the contributing factors to a destructive and smoky summer. We hear from Marko Bey of the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, and Don Ferguson, retired from a long career at the federal Bureau of Land Management working on wildland fires.

Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy recently published a study looking at the history of wildfire behavior in the Rogue River Basin, and will follow it up with a public field trip to look at parts of the forest affected by fire. We hear from its lead author and forest ecologist Kerry Metlen.

More Fire Activity Brings Back The Smoke

Sep 7, 2018
Oregon Smoke Blog

UPDATE: SEPT. 7, 4:00 p.m. -- Active fires in northern California and southern Oregon have brought back smoky air to much of the region. The new Delta fire between Redding and Mount Shasta, in particular, has made for deteriorating air quality along the I-5 corridor in that area.

Oregon Department of Forestry Facebook page

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 5, 10:00 p.m. -- The containment on the Hugo Road Fire continues to rise as firefighters are making additional progress. The fire is holding at 199 acres and is now 75 contained.


UPDATE: SATURDAY, SEPT. 1 -- A rapidly spreading wildfire that partially shut down northbound I-5 has been brought under control. The highway is back to normal operation.

Oregon Department Of Forestry

UPDATE: TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 9:00 p.m. --  Crews are holding the Ramsey Canyon fire in northwest Jackson County to 1,971 acres, and as of Tuesday night had pushed containment to 70 percent.

Northern California authorities have arrested a man they say started the deadly Klamathon Fire last month.

California's fire agency said Thursday that it arrested 32-year-old John Colin Eagle Skoda after investigators concluded that a debris fire he started turned into a 60-square-mile blaze that killed one person and destroyed 35 homes.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Suzi Brady said Skoda quickly lost control of the unpermitted debris fire he started in Siskiyou County about 300 miles north of San Francisco.

Just days after the massive Mendocino Complex Fire ignited in Northern California, fire officials were getting desperate in their emails to Verizon Wireless. As Santa Clara County firefighters mobilized, they discovered that Internet access had slowed to a crawl on the vehicle they were using to coordinate their response.

"Please work with us," Daniel Farrelly, a systems analyst for the Santa Clara Fire Department, entreated the company in an email dated July 30. "All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind."

Ask anyone who lived in Washington's Wenatchee Valley in 2012 about the smoke that year, and they’ll remember. The fires were close and the valley’s dry hillsides trapped the wildfire smoke. It was so bad clinics and drug stores ran out of masks. The air was so choked with smoke that summer camps were canceled and children were kept inside.

Anastazia Burnett won’t forget that summer. More than once, asthma attacks drove her to the walk-in clinic for emergency treatment. At the time, she was newly pregnant with her first child.

Noa Traylor of Weed, California
April Ehrlich | JPR News

Dozens of wildfires are filling the West Coast skies with thick smoke. In Southern Oregon, unhealthy air has forced people to wear smoke-filtering masks almost every day for more than a month. It has become part of the norm.

But in recent weeks, people have gotten tired of wearing the plain white paper masks every day. Instead, they’re investing in nicer ones made of fabric, and some even have artsy designs.

Noa Traylor of Weed, California, found his mask online. It’s a black fabric mask with a white decal of a zipper.

April Ehrlich/JPR News

Two weeks after the Carr Fire roared into Redding and destroyed hundreds of homes, the Small Business Administration came to town and set up shop. 

SBA offers disaster assistance for both business owners and homeowners.  That bears repeating: you can use an SBA loan to rebuild your home, not just a business. 

Chelsea Irvine is a public information officer with SBA. 

Firefighters continue to battle the largest fire in California history even as another large blaze has been contained.

The Ranch Fire, one of the two wildfires that make up the Mendocino Complex, has burned through 341,047 acres — or 533 square miles — and is at 76 percent containment, Cal Fires reported on Sunday.

Oregonians will have the chance to weigh in on proposed new smoke management rules that could ease the way for more controlled burns aimed at reducing the threat of major wildfires.

State regulators will hold public hearings in five cities often affected by smoke from wildfires.

Under the proposals, there would no longer be a strict ban against allowing controlled burns projected to cause visible smoke in nearby communities. Instead, these prescribed fires would have to remain under certain state and federal clean-air standards.

Chris Hopkins moved to Pine Forest for the trees. He was drawn to the hilly, forested community in Washington’s Methow Valley, and decided to build a cabin there in the 1990s, "before we really knew about fire danger," he said.

How To Prepare Your Home For Wildfire

Aug 15, 2018

Homes built on the edge of forests and grasslands are especially vulnerable to wildfires. Development in this zone — known as the wildland-urban interface — is the fastest-growing land use type in the lower 48 states.

Geoffrey Riley/JPR News

The tourism business is taking a pounding in the region this year.  Even the people who love living here don't want to stick around when the wildfire smoke gets too thick. 

Outdoor events have been cancelled, and visitors have voluntarily cancelled many more. 

So how do you convince visitors to follow through on planned visits?  That's an question the Ashland Chamber of Commerce has been mulling, along with the people at Travel Southern Oregon

New Air Quality App Maps Oregon Wildfire Smoke Dangers

Aug 14, 2018
Geoffrey Riley | JPR News

Oregon’s new air-quality web site has had nearly a half-million visits since wildfire activity picked up July 15, creating smoky skies over much of the state.