Northwest prepares for fire season
June 17, 2021
As recovery work continues from last year’s record fire season, federal land managers and fire, fuels and aviation officials in the Pacific Northwest say they are concerned, but well-prepared, for the 2021 season.
The 2021 fire season is busy, already. Crews had responded to nearly 600 fires by the end of May, compared to 396 at that time last year, and 271 by the same point in 2017.
Prescribed fire is increasingly important in reducing risk to natural resources and communities. During the cooler weather months, fire and fuels managers worked closely with air quality and public health authorities, as well as with regional leadership, to conduct prescribed burns throughout in both Washington and Oregon.
Drought conditions are widespread. Areas of both Oregon and Washington are affected. Forecasts predict drier and warmer than average conditions are likely through June, July, and August in both states.
Safety is the priority, always. Comprehensive risk analysis is used to identify the safest and most appropriate management actions on every fire. In some cases, remote fires may offer opportunities to use fire to improve conditions, reduce fuels, and break a cycle of fire suppression creating conditions for large fires of megafires (such decisions, if made, will involve close collaboration with nearby communities). There will be continued additional coordination and planning to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among wildland fire crews and support teams.
Plan for smoke. Air Resource Advisors are using advanced smoke forecasting models to provide as much advance notice as possible of degraded air quality days from wildfire smoke. Smoke is an expected part of life in fire-adapted ecosystems, but it can be unpleasant and some community members – including very young children, the elderly, and those with certain heart, lung, and autoimmune conditions – are especially at risk. Public land managers and public health officials in encourage everyone to plan for how they’ll respond to poor air quality conditions. For smoke readiness tips, visit AirNow.gov.
Many wildfires are human-caused. Recreation visits have increased more than 75% in 2020; with more visitors, land managers need more people to be aware of potential causes of fires and what they can do to avoid starting a fire (and how to be ready if a fire starts).
Unattended or improperly extinguished campfires, parking a hot vehicle on dry grass, dragging metal tow chains over pavement or rocks, and use of motorized equipment (particularly equipment that throws sparks or gets extremely hot) are among potential causes of accidental fires.
When visiting public lands, including parks, forests and grasslands, check ahead to find out what seasonal fire restrictions are in effect, based on local conditions.
Learn more about recreation and wildland fire prevention at SmokeyBear.com.
To find more outdoor recreation tips for wildland fire season, visit http://www.recreateresponsibly.org.
For more information about state and federal management of wildland fires in Oregon and Washington, including fire weather forecasts and daily fire season updates, visit the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center website.
A map of current large fires is available at https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspx.