Gov. Tina Kotek is urging Oregonians to be prepared for the approaching wildfire season.
"No surprise, but wildfires will forever impact our region and much of our country,” Kotek said. “The threats will continue to grow as we grapple with hotter, dryer conditions due to climate change. But we have choices, and how we prepare and respond to the situations."
During a media briefing May 9, Kotek detailed several key points that experts have shared with her about the challenges Oregon faces this fire season.
Kotek discussed creating fire-adaptive communities and developing safer and more effective responses to support fire personnel.
Drought intensity across the state is less than it was at this time last year. While Kotek said that many regions have benefited from high volumes of spring rain and strong snowpack, some areas are affected by persistent severe drought.
The large amounts of winter moisture and precipitation in May and June will likely cause a "delayed wildfire season," Kotek said. Despite the late onset of wildfire season, Kotek emphasized the need for preparedness.
"Wildfire prevention efforts, including public information campaigns, early fire detection, leveraging aviation and ground assets for early deployment for a safe and aggressive initial attack, are all key to our successes this year," Kotek said.
Fire indixes indicate that there will be an above-average fire season in Eastern Oregon, Kotek said. Deploying to these remote areas will be a challenge for Oregon's response system.
Kotek outlined the challenges ahead:
- Capacity to respond in rural areas that rely on volunteer firefighters.
- Competition for natural resources as fire seasons become more complex.
Oregon will continue to rely on the fire mutual aid system, which deploys local fire departments across the state to protect communities, Kotek said.
Using the lessons from past fire seasons, Kotek said that agencies have become better at technological efficiency, expanding the monitoring network, localized forecasting, streamlined smoke coordination calls, and simplified templates for air quality advisory.
"Leveraging our statewide wildfire coordination system, utilizing technology and advanced firefighting equipment to our advantage, and taking early and aggressive action will be key," Kotek said. "But it's going to be up to every single one of us, every Oregonian, to do our part to prevent human-caused fires before they start."
Kotek ended her address with ways Oregonians should prepare for fire season as the weather becomes hot and dry.
"Prepare your yard. Have an evacuation plan. Have a to-go kit. Have a plan if there's smoke in your community," Kotek said. "Above all, do everything you can wherever you are to prevent fires from starting in the first place."
To learn more about wildfire preparedness, contact your local fire district or fire station.
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