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Oregon wildfire season officially underway statewide

Heavy spring rainfall delayed the arrival of wildfire season in parts of the state. Oregonians are now asked to take steps to prevent human-caused ignitions.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2021 photo, an air tanker drops retardant on a wildfire in Goleta, Calif. U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Forestry said Monday that all of its fire districts, which combined cover about 16 million acres (6.47 million hectares), are officially in wildfire season.

Heavy rainfall stalled the start of the season for parts of the state. But with drier, hotter conditions here or forecast statewide, fire officials are urging Oregonians to take steps to prevent blazes, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The official start of fire season means people can expect public use restrictions such as campfire bans where fire danger is high, said Jessica Prakke, public affairs officer with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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The Department of Forestry recommends drowning campfires, monitoring debris piles, not parking cars on dry grass and properly disposing of cigarettes. The fewer human-caused fires on the landscape, Prakke added, the more resources fire officials can devote to other blazes.

The latest fire season outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center shows the highest fire risk in Central and Southern Oregon from the Columbia River down to the California border as well as Southeast Oregon for July.

The Willowcreek Fire north of Ontario near Idaho has been the largest fire in Oregon this year, burning more than 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of rangeland in a few days.

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Despite this year's exceptionally rainy Pacific Northwest spring, officials have been warning for months that they expected another challenging fire season later in the summer.

At a news conference in May hosted by Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Department of Forestry fire chief Mike Shaw said high drought levels would cause wildfire conditions to set in very quickly once the cooler spring weather let up.

"I would say we’re in better shape than we would have been if March weather had continued, but it’s still going to be challenging when we make that transition to warmer and dryer weather," he said at the time.

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