By Tiffany Olin October 20, 2022
Southern Oregon — It may be late October, but we are still not quite out of the woods for fire season.
“Every district in the state of Oregon is still in fire season, which is somewhat rare,” Brett Nixon with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said.
According to Nixon, to date, the state has had 820 total fires, which is down from the ten-year average of 1,024 total fires.
“Ninety-six percent of fires kept at ten acres or less,” Nixon explained. “I think that’s a huge nod to our detection programs and to the initial attack on the ground. Folks being able to get out there and keep them small and be aggressive on the ground.”
Comparing human-caused fires with lightning-caused, there were almost 400 more human-caused fires than lightning-caused, but when it comes to acres burned on ODF protected lands, the leading cause flips.
“Lightning-caused is what has the largest number of acreages on ODF protected land with human caused way down this year, which is a testament to some of the messaging the department and our partners have been able to do throughout the year,” Nixon said.
Being able to detect fires early with the fire detection cameras and aviation resources helped ODF get to fires and handle them quicker.
“Fifty-six fires that our plane/platform was able to locate that was not previously detected or previously reported so that’s huge being able to get those things detected and get folks out on the ground,” Nixon said.
With an expanded budget, ODF able to get some upgrades and additions to their equipment.
“We actually increased our severity program from five million to ten million, which added a next-generation airtanker, added two fire boss single-engineer tankers,” Nixon explained.
The severity program includes investments in wildfire readiness like those aviation assets mentioned.
In addition, as a result of Senate Bill 762, ODF was able to dedicate one hundred hours of flight time to its floor-looking infrared and night vision goggles for fire protection at night.
ODF credited these assets for helping catch fires early and alerting ground resources quick.
Although ODF mentioned that we are still in fire season, the agency did not discuss when the end of fire season could be.