PORTLAND, Ore. — Wildfire season is on the horizon, so staying safe and getting ready is top of mind for many. Oregon firefighters encourage everyone to have a wildfire plan, given the changing nature of the climate and the possibility of more extreme fires.
At this point of the year, things look lush and green, but firefighters are on high alert.
"The reality is, I mean, we did have a pretty wet spring there for a while with cool, moderate temperatures, but quickly it got warm," said Stefan Myers, with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R). "So what happens is, all those green fuels that look so beautiful then become dry and fire can find its way to move through there."
Across the region, departments like TVF&R are doing what they can now to fight wildfires this year.
"We have to be ready, whether it's fast moving fires and fine fuels or small fuels on the ground, or if it's getting into a more dense forested area, we are investing in that by doing training right now," Myers said.
Fire crews also want to help everyone protect their homes and communities. At the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum this week, Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) and the Office of the State Fire Marshal held a special event to educate the public.
"With the drought conditions we've been seeing and the change in the fire behavior, the Portland area is very much at risk for a possible wildfire to start," said Kim Kosmas, with PF&R. "And if it did — when and if it does happen — it can be very catastrophic."
Ann Ruttan, an artist, and Apricot Irving, an author, use their work to share their personal experiences — and close calls — with Oregon wildfires.
"I drove through the beginning of the Santiam Canyon Fire in September 2020, and these paintings are the result of that," Ruttan said.
"Writing about the Eagle Creek Fire was a really important part for me, of being able to feel like I could process and heal from the trauma of it," Irving said.
Not only has it shaped their work, the fires have driven them to advocate for wildfire safety.
"Because our landscape is changing so much, this is not a rainforest environment anymore, and we've got to get ready," Ruttan said.
"It is possible to still live well in this landscape that we love, and there's things we can do to protect our homes, and recognize that wildfire is here," Irving said.