Drying conditions in Central Oregon have prompted the state Department of Forestry to declare Friday as the official beginning of fire season there. The declaration comes nearly two weeks earlier than last year.
Central Oregon, like other parts of the state, has had below normal precipitation this spring.
District forester George Ponte says that’s meant vegetation is drying out faster than expected.
“It’s really hard to predict how many fires we’ll have this year or how big they’ll get. But the fuels, like I said, are getting there. And all it takes is a spark,” said Ponte.
The declaration puts some restrictions on people working in the forest. Ponte says open burning on private land is prohibited without a permit. He says more restrictions could be put in place over the next few weeks.
The latest outlook from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center predicts a heightened risk of large fires in Oregon as we move into July.
That same report predicts fire season could last well into September.