PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon forestry officials say that they have seen an unusual number of wildland fires so far this year, well before the customary beginning of fire season. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention, there have been almost three times as many fires than normal.
As of Monday, ODF had record of 83 fires in the state, burning 141 acres.
According to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), almost two-thirds of Oregon is showing some level of drought conditions at present, with about 30 percent of the state showing either moderate or severe drought conditions. A much smaller part, just 2.4 percent of the state, is in extreme drought conditions — primarily in the far southwestern corner of the state along the California border.
"The small pocket of extreme drought conditions on the Oregon map, colored in red, is isolated to the southwest corner of the state," BLM said, referring to a drought condition map [above]. "The severe drought conditions, in orange, run the length of western Oregon with another large area stretching across central Oregon, from Bend to the Columbia River."
Information from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) predicts that most of the state will be in a persistent drought through July.
Drought conditions historically provide the foundation for more devastating wildfires. Due largely to those conditions, the National Interagency Fire Center has predicted "significant large fire potential" for much of the northwestern United States by July of this year. Eastern Washington, southern and central Oregon, and much of northern California fall within the area considered at high risk.
COVD-19 has also had an impact on fire season preparations this year, forcing forestry agencies to adapt or halt their usual prescribed burn treatments for areas considered at high fire risk.