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Wildfire conditions for Oregon and California may be worse, earlier than predicted

Smoke from the 2018 Klondike Fire seen looming over the town of Agness, Oregon.

New models from the National Interagency Fire Center show earlier and more widespread possibility for fires in Oregon and northern California than predicted in early April.

Posted: May 1, 2020 4:11 PM
Updated: May 1, 2020 4:31 PM

BOISE, Idaho — New models from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) show an earlier and more widespread potential for "significant" wildfires in southwest Oregon and northern California than previous predictions made in early April.

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.

The earlier models did predict "significant large fire potential" for northern California, much of Oregon, and eastern Washington by July — due to warmer and drier than average conditions going into summer. However, the latest models show a potentially alarming development since that report.


RELATED: Oregon reports almost three times as many fires than normal so far in 2020


"Overall, since the beginning of the water year in autumn 2019, the region has been drier than average except for western Washington and extreme northwestern Oregon," NIFC states in its full report. "Elsewhere precipitation has been significantly below normal, and drought designations have expanded across the region."

According to NIFC, areas of southwest Oregon and northern California could see large wildfire potential by June. By July, that potential is expected to expand throughout most of southern and eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho.

The NIFC report predicts significant fire potential for an even larger area of the western U.S. into August — covering most of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and areas of Nevada, Montana, and northern California.


RELATED: Fire Season officially begins Friday in Jackson and Josephine counties


"Above Normal significant large fire potential will begin developing across southwestern Oregon in June and then expand to include all but the northwestern quarter of the region by August," NIFC report said. "Other locations can expect Normal significant large fire potential during the outlook period."

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.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 66333

Reported Deaths: 826
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15240213
Washington903896
Marion8436130
Clackamas547276
Umatilla415648
Lane389037
Jackson343623
Malheur231839
Deschutes195514
Yamhill158216
Linn127518
Polk107615
Douglas82215
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Union7172
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Morrow6257
Lincoln56513
Wasco47918
Josephine4434
Columbia4383
Coos3901
Hood River3661
Clatsop3350
Baker2593
Crook1986
Grant1231
Tillamook1120
Curry1052
Lake1010
Harney871
Wallowa702
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1128219

Reported Deaths: 18753
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Los Angeles3706367446
San Bernardino851761129
Riverside815651413
San Diego72815968
Orange711161554
Kern38519445
Fresno36315471
Sacramento33421546
Santa Clara31103464
Alameda27622499
San Joaquin24649503
Contra Costa22482258
Stanislaus20658418
Tulare19818303
Ventura18105174
Imperial15257355
San Francisco14542158
Monterey13887114
San Mateo13334169
Sonoma11486155
Merced10986176
Santa Barbara10946133
Kings1011586
Solano936380
Marin7560128
Placer607167
Madera588580
San Luis Obispo566435
Yolo425775
Shasta410042
Santa Cruz389627
Butte371259
Napa277817
Sutter267713
El Dorado19304
San Benito174615
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Lassen14803
Tehama145723
Mendocino142422
Nevada10529
Lake83418
Glenn8326
Humboldt7849
Tuolumne7848
Colusa6426
Mono4993
Siskiyou4951
Amador45016
Calaveras43421
Inyo27916
Del Norte2731
Plumas1770
Modoc1140
Trinity1140
Mariposa1122
Alpine420
Sierra170
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