Published by Kristin Babbs
Sept. 4, 2018
State Forestry encouraged by public fire prevention efforts, with fewer human-caused wildfires in August
SALEM, Ore. – The 2018 fire season has been filled with challenges. Through August, 839 fires have burned an estimated 69,000 acres on the nearly 16 million acres of lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry alone. Acres affected by wildfires on all jurisdictions in Oregon represent more than 748,000 acres to date in 2018.
However, there is a silver lining to this story. The month of August, considered the peak of fire season, showed a decrease in human-caused fires in comparison to the 10-year average. In all, people were responsible for 138 wildfires, a 10-percent drop from the 10-year average of 153. Fires resulting from campfires (6) were down 50 percent (12) and vehicle related fires (9) were down 40 percent from the average (15). The largest drop came from illegal debris burning, where just two fires occurred compared to the 10-year average of 13. This represents a nearly 85 percent decrease.
“This is very encouraging,” says ODF Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “I’d like to think that people are starting to get it. Oregon is a beautiful place to live, but it does come with the risk of fire, especially from May through October. We are hopeful that the trend continues and that we can end 2018 on a high note. But we still have a long way to go.”
While more than 44,000 acres burned on ODF protected lands have been attributed to fires started by lightning (210), the number of human-caused fires represents 75 percent of all ignitions. The leading culprits behind a number of these fires are those burning illegally (99), drivers of poorly maintained vehicles (57) and campers failing to properly extinguish campfires (37). Other fire causes include power lines, mowing dry grass, fireworks and smoking. Nearly 60 wildfires are still under investigation.
Fields says that the end of fire season generally lasts through October when several days of significant rainfall saturates the landscape. Each ODF protection district makes that determination based on conditions in their respective areas. For now, fire restrictions remain in place and the public is encouraged to keep up the good work. Log on to https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx for the latest on fire restrictions in your area or where you plan to travel.
Tom Fields, ODF Fire Prevention Coordinator, (503) 945-7440 firstname.lastname@example.org