ODF: Wildfire average up 19 percent from state’s 10-year average - KPTV - FOX 12

ODF: Wildfire average up 19 percent from state’s 10-year average

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

All along the West Coast, the fire season is raging out of control. And Oregon is no exception.

From the fires burning east of the Gorge and all the way down to northern California, firefighters have had their hands full.

There are currently 10 major wildfires burning in Oregon.

The largest is the Taylor Creek Fire, which is burning at roughly 42,000 acres near Grants Pass.

Fire officials say it’s a tough wildfire season and even more so for people whose lives are impacted every day.

“I've heard several friends of mine say this is absolutely unprecedented,” Will Neuberger, who lives in Dufur, said.

Neuberger works on a farm that dodged major wildfires this summer.

"It's been a crazy summer so far and, yeah, we've been pulling anywhere from 12 to 15-hour days trying to get crops back up,” Neuberger said.

And fire crews are working around the clock.

Matt Mackey is a wildland fire supervisor for the Oregon Department of Forestry. He says fires that normally don’t need to be attacked so heavily are burning hot and fast this season.

“Because the fuel moistures are so low and the lack of precipitation we've had, really since all through May, the fire intermixed with that topography really just kind of created its own mechanism to create large growth on itself,” Mackey said.

Dry conditions, hot temperatures and wind – it’s the perfect storm, making for a horrible situation.

So far, across the 16 million acres of forestland that ODF protects, which is about half of the forestland in the state, more than 300,000 acres have burned, totaling 655 wildfires. That’s 19 percent more than the state’s 10-year average.

This time last year, 629 wildfires had burned on ODF land, according to officials.

Of those 655, 78 percent of those–whether accidentally or not–were started by people. That’s up six percent from this time last year.

22 percent were started by lightning.  

“This year, we've been seeing a lot of abandoned campfires, folks that have just kind of gone out in the woods in those non-designated areas made a camp overnight went back to their home in the morning and just failed to put the fire out properly,” Mackey said.

ODF says fires spark very easily in a wide range of ways, including people discarding ashes or charcoal briquettes from a barbecue that is still hot, someone moving tall grass and the mower hits a rock, sparking a fire, people setting off fireworks, trash and yard debris burning, and target shooting.

ODF says the outlook for the rest of the wildfire season is not good.

“We've been slowly accepting the fate that this is our new norm, this is the new normal, this is the new average," Mackey said. "So, the best thing that we've been able to do is just learn from the lessons in the past, apply them for the future and know that every single fire started out there has the potential to become large very quickly.".

Wildfire season typically ends mid-October, but it could be even later. Firefighters say they don't expect relief anytime soon.

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