BEND, OR -- Humidity is the firefighter's best friend, but Central Oregon's arid summer conditions aren't over yet.
Dave Howe, Bend Fire Battalion Chief, says the weather is supposed to get warmer again, which means the humidity levels will go down.
He says there are different kinds of fuel, classified by the number of hours in windy and dry conditions that it takes them to be ready to catch flame once they're entirely saturated with water....thin grasses are considered 'one hour fuels' up to giant logs, or 'thousand hour' fuels. "If we have wet weather, like we do now, and then all of a sudden it gets warmer and it gets windy, it's going to dry those thin fuels out and they'll be nice and dry and ready to burn and our thousand hour fuels, those big logs and the big stuff, will still be available to burn, because the fuel moisture will still be down, it hasn't responded to the moisture yet and we'll be right back into the burning conditions."
Howe says that even though the danger classification has gone down from Extreme to High, exercising caution around any controlled fire is the best form of wildfire prevention, and the worst thing that can happen is for people to get complacent with fire just because there's a little rain in the forecast. "What's going to happen with us again next week is the humidity levels are going to drop again, the moisture content of the air is going to drop, and so the moisture content of the fuels will also drop and that will make those fuels more available for ignition."
Howe says it takes a surprising amount of moisture in the air for an extended period of time for the threat of wildfire to truly be passed and he stresses continued caution as people light camp and other fires, because as the wind really dries out all the fuel, it puts us in a position where one spark is all it takes to start a new wildfire. "I would say the main thing is basically just to realize that the wildland is still quite flammable and take the necessary precautions, the same precautions you've taken all summer, because the dropping humidity and the dropping fuel moisture can unpleasantly surprise you."
As always, if you see smoke, report it.