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Autumn Brings Relief From Wildfires, But Also Potential For 'East Wind Events'

A firefighter in silhouette.
Fabian Jones / Unsplash
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A firefighter in silhouette.

Days are shorter, nights are cooler, and rain is becoming more frequent in the forecast. While that all bodes well for crews battling Oregon’s wildfires, a new element of risk is possible.

Roughly 15 large fire events in Oregon are listed on Inciweb, an online tracker and information system. Containment has improved steadily, and some evacuation levels and closure notices have been reduced or removed.

But Kyle Reed of the Douglas Forest Protective Association says autumn often brings a wild card to conditions, known as east wind events.

“That’s when winds come down off the Cascades and they funnel down through the valleys and come down the hill, and as they come down they compress,” he explained.

“Which causes them to warm up, so it’s a warm wind. And typically it’s a strong wind. So it’s very similar to what we saw last year with the Labor Day storms, except that was a very severe case of east winds. But even a mild case could really accelerate fire behavior.”

Reed adds precipitation is also improving, though much of the heaviest rainfall so far has been closer to the coast. He says while fire crews had hoped for heavier rainfall in their area, they are currently at “LOW” fire risk, and gradually issuing permits for backyard debris burning.

“So those permits from DFPA are free. They do require an on-site inspection.  We have to have a fire trail around those, make sure you have fire tools and water on-site, and have a chance to explain safe burning to the people before they actually do the burn.”

Reed says the fire season is winding down, and typically ends in mid-October. But that timeline could be extended if conditions run warmer and drier than usual.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.