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Fire Season

Firefighter Sal Gilliland stands in a truck as he and other firefighters fill it with tree planting equipment Wednesday at the Coos Forest Protective Association headquarters in Coos Bay.

COOS BAY -- Oregon was given a bit of relief in regards to its lighter-than-normal fire season this summer, which comes as a nice reprieve after two record fire seasons.

As of Sept. 26, Oregon had 1,780 fires reported to the Northwest Coordination Center for 2019, compared to the 2,019 total in 2018.

Firefighters Chris Siebrasse, right, and Jeremy Norris work on a chainsaw Wednesday at the Coos Forest Protective Association headquarters in …

Throughout the fire season, Oregon’s structural fire service played an important role in the suppression of wildfires, often being the first to arrive on-scene and conduct suppression activities. The structural fire service works alongside state and federal partners to keep fires small.

When a fire grows beyond the capacity of the local fire service and their mutual aid, the governor can invoke the Emergency Conflagration Act to bring in statewide mutual aid. So far, there have been no declared conflagrations in 2019. There were 11 declared conflagrations in 2018, which was a record for any given season. 

The largest fire in the state this season was the milepost 97 fire, which burned around 11,000 acres along the I-5 corridor, near Grants Pass.

According to Coos Forest Protective Association, the weather was the deciding factor in this year’s fire season ending a bit earlier than normal.

“We had above average rainfall for September, and so the weather of fall let us end the season a little earlier,” Jeff Chase with CFPA said.

Chase said just because fire season has ended doesn’t mean a fire couldn’t potentially happen later this fall should the weather be dry enough.

“We ended fire season, but that doesn’t mean that later in October we won’t potentially see fire conditions again. For now, though, it was justifiable to end the fire season,” Chase said.

Chase said he thinks one reason this fire season was tamer might have been a result of the heavy fire seasons that Oregon has had over the past two years.

“A lot of heavy fire seasons help reach the public to be a little safer with their fire causes,” Chase said.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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