EUGENE, Ore. — Western Oregon residents can expect an above-normal fire season this year, according to a recently released forecast from the National Interagency Fire Center.
Oregon is already seeing small fires pop up across the state, including the Dowens Fire in Cottage Grove back in May.
The Douglas and Coos forest protective associations declared the start of fire season on Tuesday. Lane Fire Authority will declare the start of season on Monday, June 17, which will increase regulations to help prevent human-caused fires.
Over the past weekend, 33 departments across the state, including Corvallis and Eugene, attended the Metro Advanced Wildfire Training in Molalla to prepare for a large-scale incident. Crews used dried out Christmas trees to simulate what this year’s fire season could bring to areas not used to seeing flames.
“Doing some of the standard things that they do every day on a wildfire, but if they are from a metro area, they are not doing those things every day,” said Lt. Damon Simmons, Public Information Officer with the Portland Fire Department. “They got to get used to it and primed up for the wildfire season.”
Firefighters along the Interstate 5 corridor see structure fires almost every day, but wildfires are a whole different ball game.
“You have to use topography. You have to use the weather to your advantage,” said Simmons.
Crews also learned how to call in helicopter water dumps.
“That is something they don’t do in the city,” Simmons said. “You don’t call in helicopters to dump water on a house fire.”
This summer, above-normal fire potential is forecasted for west of the Cascades. With small fires already popping up, firefighters are asking the public to be prepared.
“People might be under-prepared,” said Simmons. “They might not be quite ready for what’s coming. We want people to be prepared. We want them to be ready. We want the public to help us.”
Wildfires in western Oregon are particularly dangerous, and firefighters want to make sure communities who live in what’s called the urban interface are ready.
“We are going to see a lot more fire bumping into communities. These communities have to be ready,” said Simmons. “If you live in area where you, in that urban interface area — by that we mean those homes that bump right up to natural areas — we want you to be ready.
That includes clearing brush and debris from around your home, cleaning your gutters and having a go kit ready should you be asked to evacuate.
“The important thing about preparing your structures, preparing yourself to evacuate, and getting out when we ask you to get out, it makes it so that firefighters can focus on saving your house, instead of saving your life,” said Simmons.