PORTLAND, Ore. — April brought a record amount of rain for Portland this year, including great gains for the local mountain snowpack, but heading into the warm season the outlook isn't great when it comes to Oregon's wildfire forecast.
Oregon is at high risk heading into the summer months, according to John Saltenberger, fire weather program manager with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
Moving through June, July and August, the area of elevated fire potential is expected to expand to include much of central Washington, central Oregon and into northern California. Salternberger said he's especially worried about just how hot things are expected to get across the country.
“I’ve been doing this job for 38 years now and I can’t recall seeing such an ominous signal displayed over such a large swath over the continental United States,” he said.
Temperatures this summer are expected to be above normal from coast to coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In Oregon, counties are already preparing for the worst. At a press conference Monday morning, crews from Canby and other Clackamas Fire Districts talked about how quickly the state's fire season can change.
A spokesperson said the county typically looks at July as the start of wildfire season, but it can start earlier if the weather conditions line up. Changes can come at a moments notice, like in September of 2020 when Oregon saw wildfires break out across the state.
Saltenberger is also looking at what could play out in the desert Southwest. The monsoonal season in that region could potentially have impacts that ripple up to Oregon.
“It is possible that some of that moisture gathers in the southwest could move our way when we see extended period of hot and dry weather. It does have a tendency to pull that moisture northward,” he said.
Ultimately the weather Oregon has seen in the winter or spring doesn't matter, he added — what matters is what the weather looks like when wildfires break out.