BEND, OR -- The Forest Service declared the end of wildfire season last week, allowing officials to reflect on what was predicted to be a record year. Kassidy Kern, with the Deschutes National Forest, tells KBND News other parts of the state and country saw devastating fires that scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.
But, she says locally, fewer lightning strikes meant our region was spared. "Here in Central Oregon, we just didn’t see it as much, but that was only because we didn’t have the ignition sources. Everywhere around us – in the Willamette National Forest to the west, all of the eastern forests – the Malheur had the big fire near John Day, and it’s because they all had lightning; and we just didn’t get it this year, so we really dodged a bullet."
Kern says, "Last year, in contrast, we had days where we would have between 700-1,000 lightning strikes. This year, we would have 150 lightning strikes. And so, it really ended up being we didn’t have the ignition sources that overwhelmed our resources." Despite drought conditions, that lack of lightning allowed crews to quickly respond to starts before they got out of control. She points out, locally, the majority of the large fires were human caused.
Other communities around the state and country weren't so lucky. "We were at a preparedness level 5 for an almost record amount of time. And, what that means is that across the nation we were completely stretched thin with resources. We had every available firefighter out. We know that, partially because we saw the numbers, but also because we were calling in firefighters from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It was a really, I hate to use the buzzword, but an epic fire year for us," Says Kern.