Fire season has come a month early for some counties in Southern and Central Oregon, leading to preparations for what could be another major wildfire season.
The Oregon Department of Forestry declared a Saturday start to fire season in Klamath and Lake counties, as reported by the Herald and News. Earlier red flag warnings, warmer temperatures and lack of rain have set the state up for what could be the worst drought in decades. That has fire officials prepping counties earlier than usual for abnormally dry weather and severe conditions that could lead to wildfires.
“Where we are at with fuel conditions, lack of spring rains, extreme and exceptional drought, and continuous fire activity in Klamath County, Lake County, and around the state, Klamath-Lake District will be declaring fire season on Saturday,” ODF Protection Unit Forester Randall Baley said in a statement. “The total package of conditions all adds up to make the public aware of the situation and minimize the potential for human-caused fires.”
According to the Department of Forestry, the state has recorded 132 fires that burned 3,246 acres so far this year. People started all of those fires.
Fire season was also declared in Prineville and The Dalles starting Saturday. The agency said it is the earliest they have declared a fire season in more than four decades. This year, ODF’s Central Oregon District has already seen a significant increase in fires. On a 10-year average, the area experiences about 10 fires burning just 32 acres in total around this time of year. As of now, there have been 22 human-caused fires and more than 200 acres burned.
Jackson and Josephine counties are also starting their fire season early. The agency has already responded to more than 50 fires in the area.
During fire season, activities like backyard debris burning and the use of exploding targets and tracer ammunition is prohibited. Fire officials have also been advising people in recent weeks to prepare their homes if they live in an area susceptible to wildfires. Those preparations include clearing debris for defensible space around a home and having evacuation routes planned in case of a wildfire.