It might seem there’s nothing left to burn in Curry County’s backcountry after two devastating wildfires burned more than 366,000 acres in the past two years, but the National Interagency Fire Center said Wednesday this summer might be another busy season.
The Pacific Northwest has entered a period of moderate drought, which could mean an early fire season in the Cascade Range. But the potential for significant wildfires is above normal for regions west of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington through August, the report said.
Curry County Commissioner Court Boice has been counting down the days since the last fire season ended, and has been trying to get mitigation efforts — and the money to fund them — underway in the forests.
The Coos Forest Protective Association responded to its first wildfire of the year earlier this week, a 5-acre incident near Reedsport they were able to extinguish before it spread. A week prior to that, a fire broke out in the eastern plains of Oregon, as well.
Wednesday, another fire was ignited north of Klamath Falls. It stood at 400 acres as of late Friday.
Despite a winter of steady and often torrential rain, the fire danger has crept up in recent weeks with high winds and warm temperatures drying out the grasses and brush.
In the West
Curry County was enveloped in smoke in each of the past two summers as the Chetco Bar Fire in 2017 and the Klondike Fire last year scorched through thousands of acres. The Klondike Fire forced the evacuation of half of Agness and affected the tourism season.
Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Jeremy Dumire told commissioners last month he doesn’t anticipate any large fires in the footprints of those two mega-fires but is concerned heavily timbered area around Agness could easily burn.
California experienced its deadliest and largest wildfires in the past two years, as well, including a fire in the northern part of the state last year that destroyed the town of Paradise, killing more than 80 people. It was the nation’s worst death toll from a wildfire in a century.
The Boise, Idaho-based center said a heavy crop of grasses and fine fuels has developed across California and should elevate fire potential as it dries through the summer
The terms “normal” or “above normal” refer to a formula that involves drought, precipitation and fuel conditions in each region, projected on a 10-year average, said Jennifer Smith of the fire center.
In the Southwest, below normal fire potential was expected across northern Arizona, northern New Mexico and west Texas in May and June, the report said. Above normal fire potential was expected in southern Arizona in those months.