The National Forest Fire Agency predicts high fire danger in central and southern Oregon by July

The Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center predicts higher-than-normal wildfire risk in parts of the state by July as dry conditions persist despite heavy rains this spring.

(The Company/FILE)

The National Interagency Fire Center predicts a higher than normal risk of wildfires in central Oregon starting in June and in southern Oregon by July, according to a report released Tuesday. Southeast Washington will also be at high risk, and northern California is considered to be at severe risk.

The Boise, Idaho-based firefighting center is the central coordinating site for eight federal agencies involved in wildfire suppression, such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Weather Service.

By August, the fire center predicts that most of the northwest will face a higher than normal risk of possible wildfires.

Despite above-average rainfall in April and May across much of the state, persistent drought conditions are largely to blame.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the West is experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years and the driest 22 years on record. Most of central Oregon is experiencing “exceptional drought.”

The fire center does not cite climate change in its report, but the Union of Concerned Scientists – a non-profit advocacy group made up of professional scientists – said the region’s drought is a consequence of climate change. of human origin.

“As you warm the planet, you’re more likely to dry out vegetation and soil,” said Kristina Dahl, senior climatologist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate & Energy program. “Even when you saw above-average rainfall in Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, it really wasn’t enough to pull the region out of long-term drought.”

The fire center predicts above normal summer temperatures through September in southeastern Oregon and below normal precipitation across the Pacific Northwest from July through September.

Dahl likened the brief periods of heavy rain this spring, coupled with increasingly dry summers, to a savings account receiving small deposits.

“If you don’t put enough into it over time, it will run out. A deposit of your birthday money won’t get you back where you need to be,” she said.

By September, the risk of large fires will decrease across much of the state, according to the fire center report, but fires will still be possible in much of the Cascades and western Utah. Oregon.

Significant fire potential is forecast in northern California, which could bring smoke to Oregon and other parts of the state.

Since May, there have been 30 human-caused fires in Oregon, according to the report, most of which have burned less than an acre. However, a fire in central Oregon has burned 50 acres. So far this year, about two million acres have burned in wildfires, mostly in the southwestern United States. That’s already a million acres above the 10-year average, according to the fire center.

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