The 2017 wildfire season has officially ended on all private and public lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry districts statewide. The last district to end its fire season — the Southwest Oregon District covering Josephine and Jackson counties — did so Friday morning at 9 am.
Although fire season began a few weeks later this year because of a wet winter and spring in much of the state, fuels over the summer quickly dried out. Across all state jurisdictions there were almost 2,000 wildfires this year.
The Chetco Bar Fire burned some 191,125 acres, making it the largest wildfire this year in Oregon and one of the larger fires of this century.
Lightning storms — which were unusually absent last year — this year started hundreds of wildfires across Oregon, especially in August. ODF’s Southwest Oregon District alone responded to more than a hundred lightning fires this season, followed by the Klamath-Lake District with 57 lightning fires, Central Oregon with 44 and Northeast Oregon with 36. All other districts combined reported 37 lightning-caused wildfires.
While lightning significantly contributed to fire starts this year, humans caused the majority of wildfires on ODF-protected land in every district except Northeast Oregon. Regardless of cause, ODF crews and their cooperators succeeded in putting out the great majority of all wildfires quickly at less than 10 acres, and with no fatalities and fewer injuries than average.
The start and end of fire season are set by each district based on the fuel conditions in their area. The arrival of steady, soaking rain coupled with cooler temperatures and shorter day lengths usually triggers the closure of fire season.
The end of fire season removes restrictions on ODF-protected lands intended to prevent wildfire, such as on backyard debris burning and use of certain equipment. Many structural fire departments in Oregon, however, still require a permit for debris burning, so check with your local fire department before starting a burn.
“Fires can start even outside of fire season, so it’s always wise to be careful when burning a debris pile,” said ODF Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “Never leave a burn pile unattended and always make sure it is dead out before leaving.” Fields also says to return to the area periodically to double check for heat and smoke. Debris piles can hold heat for several weeks and come back to life under dry, windy conditions.
For more tips on how to keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe from wildfire at any time of year, visit ODF’s Fire Prevention webpage at http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/pages/FirePrevention.aspx or go to the Keep Oregon Green website at KeepOregonGreen.org