Wildfire Season: Heat wave heightens fire danger | News

Columbia County and most of Oregon will face extremely hot weather for the next few weeks. Even the Oregon Coast will experience the late summer heat wave.

National weather Service meteorologist David Bishop in Portland describes the weather pattern this way.

“We have an upper level high pressure that is also causing a thermally induced low at the surface,” he said. “It is an inverted low, which means it is going to be dryer and warmer.”

Bishop said temperatures in our region are expected to be into the mid 90s days with the chance of temperatures in some areas reaching the low 100s.

“Winds could be a our saving grace,” Bishop said. They are expected to remain relatively calm across the board from the Cascades all the way out to the coast.”

Bishop added that the forecast models are showing a slight chance of relief.

“But the overall pattern will remain somewhat stable going into late next week,” Bishop said. “Anything beyond day fire or six of a forecast is likely to change. Either way, we suggest you be prepared for the conditions.”

Wildfire managers are concerned about this forecast and human-caused wildfires.

Absent lightning, human activity becomes the main cause of wildfires, as was the case with the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 Fire. This photo shows smoke from that fire rising in burning forestland near the Siuslaw River in Lane County.

The return of high temperatures, low humidity and east winds can turbocharge even the smallest fire start, according to the Oregon Forestry Department. A smoldering campfire or an errant spark from a vehicle can become a raging blaze in minutes. And this at a time when firefighting resources are already strained in Oregon and nationally.

The forest service said the last three weeks have been extremely challenging for wildland and structural firefighters. They have been working long hours in the heat for weeks at a time in an effort to contain the spread of the state’s current wildfires and keep communities safe. Many people across the state have had to evacuate or feared they might have to. And the threat isn’t over.

While the threat from dry lightning in Oregon lessens after August, human activity again becomes the chief cause of fires. Whether this September hot spell spawns new wildfires depends almost entirely on how Oregonians behave in the forest.

Taking a few extra precautions while working or recreating in the forest can prevent most wildfires. Make a difference by following a few simple tips:

  • Operate ATVs and other motorized vehicles only on established roads.
  • Check your vehicle for dragging tow chains that can send sparks into roadside vegetation.
  • Don’t park or idle on dry grass or brush – the hot exhaust system can set it smoldering in seconds.
  • Check current fire restrictions for the area before building a campfire. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed at any time of year. Or simplify your life by bringing prepared foods instead of trying to cook over a smoky fire.
  • Smoke only in an enclosed vehicle. Properly dispose of cigarette butts.
  • If you see smoke, call 9-1-1.
  • Always have fire extinguishing tools on hand

Columbia County fire agencies recommend you have a planned escape route from your home, business and property in the event of a wildfire. And that you frequently practice that plan with family members, designating a gathering spot to meet if escape is necessary. 

For more about wildfire prevention at your property, contact your local fire district or fire department.

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