BEND, OR -- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) met Friday with representatives from the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and Prineville Bureau of Land Management, to discuss the upcoming wildfire season.
John Allen, the Forest Supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest (pictured: far right), told Wyden last year’s large snowpack followed by an extremely dry spring led to a tough fire season. But, this year doesn’t look as bad. "We’ve had a below-average snowpack, this year; spring’s been kind of so-so. But, really, what happens in May-June, as far as our rain and precipitation, and then of course how much lightning we get, is going to dictate where our fire season goes. But, right now, at best, I’m hearing ‘average'." However, he admits predicting fire season is not easy, "If we have a similar dry spring, we could be looking at a very, very intense fire season, for sure. But, then a lot of it depends on where the lightning is and how much we get. But, I think our landscapes – at least, just speaking for the Deschutes – we’re getting in better shape in terms of fuels reductions and our restoration on the landscape." He says recent prescribed burns will help.
An average wildfire season in Central Oregon has around 400 fires across 60,000 acres. Last year’s fire count was lower but far more acres burned. Senator Wyden asked if wildfires are getting bigger and hotter. Fire Staff Officer Alex Robertson said, yes. "My experience is, is that the job is getting harder. We’re getting stretched out, the seasons are longer, we’re moving our stuff around more to other areas, year-round."