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Oregon escapes relatively unscathed from height of wildfire season

After two wildfire-filled seasons, Oregonians got a break this summer.

Posted: Sep 24, 2019 11:31 AM
Updated: Sep 24, 2019 11:55 AM

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — After two wildfire-filled seasons, Oregonians got a break this summer.

Oregon's fire season was the mildest since 2004 and the least expensive since 2010, according to statistics from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

The Statesman Journal reports that statewide, wildfires burned just 67,795 acres this year compared to 883,405 acres a year ago. Cost also plummeted, dropping to $58 million this year compared to a record-high $530 million in 2018.

"This year was a relief," said Dana Skelly, wildfire fuels manager for the U.S. Forest Service. "We had two really long and difficult years. It was nice to have a break."

One reason for the lack of wildfires was that Oregon's forests never dried out to the level of the past two years, thanks to cooler temperatures and greater humidity, especially in the mountains.

Even when wildfires ignited, "we never had a fire environment that was set up for explosive growth," Skelly said.

Fire danger is measured based on the "energy release component" in forests — how hot a forest is likely to burn. Three of the past five years, Oregon has been at the highest level of danger, while this year, "we were average or even below average most of the year," Skelly said.

Another factor was that when Oregon had major lighting events, which occurred multiple times this summer, the systems came with rain.

The light season provided some opportunity to allow wildfires to burn, but it mostly occurred in Eastern Oregon.

The Granite Gulch Fire, for example, was allowed to burn 5,555 acres, in a controlled way, in northeast Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness.

"The best way to describe it is a 'managed fire,' because while we're not putting it out, we do check it with water drops to make sure it's staying where we want it," said Nathan Goodrich, zone fire management officer for Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in August. "By doing it that way, it really has been a great fire throughout its lifespan."

Goodrich said that after decades of suppression, the fire, and others like it, helped restore more natural conditions that could limit more catastrophic fires in the future.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 22022

Reported Deaths: 375
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah505698
Washington320227
Marion300573
Umatilla234231
Clackamas159547
Malheur83914
Deschutes61710
Lane6063
Jackson4992
Yamhill47413
Lincoln4219
Union3952
Jefferson3794
Morrow3783
Polk33012
Linn30311
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Klamath2042
Wasco1953
Benton1786
Douglas1591
Josephine1282
Columbia1020
Coos910
Clatsop890
Crook501
Baker420
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa201
Curry170
Sherman160
Harney110
Gilliam40
Grant40
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

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Confirmed Cases: 591376

Reported Deaths: 10753
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Los Angeles2142835112
Riverside43376824
Orange41823745
San Bernardino38290555
San Diego33157602
Kern25179183
Fresno17978191
Alameda14112209
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Santa Clara12962207
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San Francisco783467
Santa Barbara707473
San Mateo6535122
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Kings506762
Solano433841
Sonoma382551
Madera259040
Placer237724
San Luis Obispo230017
Yolo189845
Santa Cruz13166
Butte12808
Napa114211
Sutter10197
El Dorado7852
San Benito7674
Lassen6830
Yuba6784
Mendocino47810
Shasta46910
Glenn4363
Colusa3975
Nevada3571
Tehama3041
Humboldt2934
Lake2532
Amador19510
Calaveras1611
Mono1601
Tuolumne1592
Inyo1135
Siskiyou1060
Del Norte1040
Mariposa632
Plumas370
Trinity60
Modoc50
Sierra50
Alpine20
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