SALEM, Ore. – The month of May is generally associated with the blooming of flowers and the end of winter. That has all changed in 2020.
While many people are eager to return to normal amidst the Corona Virus Pandemic, fire officials are also keeping an eye on the weather and unusually dry conditions plaguing the region.
“This is definitely anything but normal,” says Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “On top of concerns related to COVID-19, we’re witnessing early July-like conditions that bring with it the threat of wildfires. And that is even more evident with this weekend’s forecast of abnormally high temperatures.”
The already dry conditions due to well-below precipitation levels in April, combined with forecasted temperatures in the mid 80’s and dry, east winds will elevate fire risk across much of Oregon through Mother’s Day. Fields says that the number of fires to date in 2020 on ODF protected lands (116) are twice the average for this time of year (55). More than half of this year’s fires (59) have resulted from escaped backyard debris burns.
“The combination of these unseasonably dry conditions and Corona Virus stay at home orders is contributing to an increase in fire activity.” Fields says while homeowners are being proactive cleaning up around their property to create defensible space prior to fire season, the disposal of yard debris through burning has been problematic.
With the early arrival of summer-like weather, fire officials are encouraging all Oregonians to heed caution with any fire-related activities. Precautions the public can take now include covering debris burn piles with a tarp or other form of plastic sheeting and waiting until next fall to burn. If plans call for camping, check before you go to see if campfires are allowed. If campfires are allowed, build them in safe areas away from brush, grass and overhanging tree limbs and make sure that they are completely out before leaving or going to bed.
Finally, May is Wildfire Awareness Month and fire officials from multiple protection agencies are encouraging everyone to do their part to Keep Oregon Green. Log on to keeporegongreen.org for more information.