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Federal fire agency predicts 'significant large fire potential' for Pacific Northwest this summer

The National Interagency Fire Center predicts that areas of Oregon, Washington, and northern California will see a high likelihood for major fires by July.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 5:06 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2020 5:23 PM

BOISE, Idaho — Southern Oregon and Northern California are likely to see some major wildfires this summer, according to the latest predictions from the National Interagency Fire Center.

NIFC is a federal agency based in Boise, Idaho that helps coordinate wildland firefighting resources in the U.S. It bases its fire potential predictions on drought conditions and expected large-scale weather patterns.

In spite of a relatively wet and cool March and forecasts for rain in April, the agency's report shows warmer and drier than average conditions going into summer — creating a "significant large fire potential" by July.

"We're anticipating that, based upon dryness observed, some of the [predictive service areas] in Oregon and Washington are likely to undergo elevated risk for large fires beginning in July of 2020," the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, a subset of NIFC, said in a video posting. "That would include much of southwestern Oregon, central and southeast Oregon, and much of central Washington as well, going into July of 2020. This is based upon drought conditions being observed and projections of warmer and drier conditions anticipated for fire season 2020 across the Pacific Northwest."

After a devastating fire season in 2018, NIFC predicted another bad year by August of 2019 for the coastal areas of California, Oregon and Washington. For western Oregon, at least, the area instead saw a comparitively mild season in 2019.

The worst wildfires of last year happened in Alaska, which saw dozens of massive fires by early summer.

The response to COVID-19 has also impacted some of the usual spring preparations ahead of wildfire season, causing agencies to either halt or limit prescribed burns for both social distancing measures and the potential health complications of smoke for coronavirus patients. The U.S. Forest Service completely suspended burns in the Pacific Northwest in March.

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