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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.

Cases: 207333

Reported Deaths: 2759
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40422614
Washington26826249
Marion23473324
Clackamas18967235
Lane13934165
Jackson11566146
Deschutes1004182
Umatilla861687
Linn563681
Yamhill478979
Klamath477878
Polk401356
Douglas390683
Josephine362372
Malheur362163
Benton327322
Jefferson237539
Coos217537
Columbia192629
Union150224
Wasco145530
Lincoln143721
Crook129423
Hood River121833
Morrow115716
Clatsop10609
Baker103015
Curry72511
Tillamook6604
Grant5527
Lake4688
Harney4359
Wallowa1945
Gilliam811
Sherman701
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 3811723

Reported Deaths: 63424
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124816124461
Riverside3017994627
San Bernardino2993724873
San Diego2819363777
Orange2731285114
Santa Clara1201942193
Kern1108471405
Sacramento1079131737
Fresno1029961724
Alameda898191280
Ventura817271032
San Joaquin748081440
Contra Costa70818813
Stanislaus635581070
Tulare49808850
Monterey43842432
San Mateo42725581
San Francisco37287556
Santa Barbara34624455
Solano33797267
Merced32317481
Sonoma30974317
Imperial28880741
Placer23633300
Kings23209247
San Luis Obispo21448261
Madera16652245
Santa Cruz16246209
Marin14207230
Yolo14157212
Butte12662198
Shasta12616235
El Dorado10415117
Napa1002980
Sutter9672113
Yuba651951
San Benito611163
Lassen579925
Tehama573963
Nevada493275
Humboldt451449
Mendocino435150
Tuolumne421971
Amador374347
Lake356445
Glenn243527
Siskiyou239837
Colusa228818
Calaveras220956
Del Norte14658
Inyo143438
Mono12984
Plumas7376
Modoc5635
Mariposa4657
Trinity4246
Sierra1170
Alpine890
Unassigned340
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