Dry Winter Could Affect Fire Season

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — The warm spring weather means that the wildfire season is also just around the corner. Local wildfire experts say the dry winter could mean trouble in the high country.

“Snowpack levels are below normal in most parts of the state,” said Brian Dally, Wildland Supervisor.

Western Oregon is seeing a lot less rain and snow than unusual.

“Numbers have ranged from 10 plus inches below normal,” Dally said.

While that may mean more days of sunshine, it could also mean drier vegetation and more potential fuel for wildfires.

“You get a couple of days as we’ve been in, high pressure, east winds, can dry those fine fuels out relatively rapidly,” Dally said.

But nature isn’t the only cause for concern this wildfire season. Fire marshals say wildfires often come at the hand of people irresponsibly starting fires on their property.

“One of our biggest problems that we have is people with backyard burns, or barbecuing, or whatever that could cause a fire,” said Dean Chappell, Fire Marshal of Lane Fire Authority.

Fire marshals say that now is the time to be proactive and remove any possible kindling that could pose a threat to your home.

“Right now because of the springtime, we need to start doing preventive things like cutting down the tall grass and weeds,” Chappell said.

According to Lane Fire Authority, trimming tall grasses around your home could be what saves it in the event of a wildfire.

“Immediately as soon as it hits the short grass, it’ll go down to only a couple of feet, and that’s manageable for a hand crew,” Chappell said.

As for this year’s fire dangers, fire marshals are concerned at just how dry the Willamette Valley has been compared to usual. They’re hopeful that late spring will bring some much needed rain.

“It’s been a drier than normal spring, but the weather here in Oregon can be very unpredictable,” Dally said.

Local wildfire experts say that people burning debris in their backyards is actually a leading cause in human-caused fires. They say that before you do any burning on your property, you should check with your local fire districts.

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