More human-caused wildfires this summer than this time last year, ODF says

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Temperate weather held long enough in Oregon to end July with comfortable temperatures, but later this week the heat returns — and with it, increased fire danger. It’s already been a busy wildfire season, and the Oregon Department of Forestry said recently that people are responsible for starting more fires this summer than compared to this same time last year.

As we head into the peak of the summer heat, the agency wants to notify people to be careful when spending time outside recreating.

ODF said that more than 450 wildfires have been started by people this year — and that’s just on the state-managed lands, which doesn’t include federal parks and forests.

“We’ve had 456 human-caused fires this year that have burned 3,721 acres and that’s on ODF-protected lands only,” said Jessica Prakke, spokesperson for ODF.

While it’s not a big jump compared to this time last summer, Prakke said, human-caused fires are on the rise.

“As we go into August we want to make sure people are very aware that one small action could cause a wildfire, especially through August or September,” she said.

A real concern heading into the latter part of this summer isn’t going to the heat alone, but how dry we’ve been across the state. The Portland International Airport hasn’t seen any measurable amount of rain at all this summer. The last time the region saw a real soaker was back in late spring on June 19, when the airport recorded .14” of rain.

Prakke said there are three primary sources for human-caused fires. By and large, it’s a mixture of debris burns, campfires and cars parking over dry grass or otherwise malfunctioning during transit that can ignite wildfires to start. She said taking preventative measures now will go a long way toward stop fires from starting in the first place.

Unfortunately, these kinds of fires are the only ones we can potentially control for. The concern for crews who’ve been battling wildfires this summer isn’t just the heat this week, it’s also the chance to see thunderstorms along the east side of the state. There’s a chance those thunderstorms could spark even more wildfires.

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