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Fire season starts early in NE Oregon

Firefighters are containing 2 wildfires ignited by lightning in the region as conditions resemble those that would be typical for mid-summer, forest managers say.

LA GRANDE, Ore. — Forest managers in northeast Oregon declared on Tuesday an early start to the 2021 fire season, with conditions resembling those that would be typical for mid-summer, as firefighters were containing two wildfires ignited by lightning in the region.

“We’ve been seeing fire conditions and behavior that is more indicative of mid to late July recently.” said Joe Hessel, the Oregon Department of Forestry's district forester for northeast Oregon.

RELATED: Here's why an expert says a repeat of last year's historic wildfires is unlikely in Oregon

The fire season began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for approximately 2 million acres of forest and range lands protected by the department. That means debris burning is prohibited, burn permits will not be issued for burn barrels or open burning, and logging and other industrial operations must have water supplies ready to extinguish any fires.

“In a normal season, we would have experienced spring moisture which typically delays the start of fire season until later in June," Hessel said. “This season, significant amounts of moisture have been absent.”

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Firefighters have contained 20% of the Joseph Canyon Fire that has burned 7,500 acres on the Oregon-Washington border.

Some 10 miles to the southeast, firefighters had the Dry Creek Fire, burning in a remote and rugged part of Hells Canyon near Joseph, Oregon, 50% contained, fire managers said. It has scorched 1,500 acres.