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Oregon sees increase in human-caused fires, but decrease in burned acreage

by Chris McGinness, KGW-TV (Portland, Ore.) |

PORTLAND, Ore. – Fire season hasn’t made big headlines in Oregon yet, but that can change in a flash. Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) officials said they've got more tools at the ready, but more challenges too.

ODF land alone has seen 316 human-caused fires this year, compared to an average of 297 by this time in 2019. Acreage burned is way down, thanks in part to lack of lightning-caused fires, and to quick response.

A nearly 400-acre blaze ignited near La Pine last weekend but firefighters got a quick jump on it and had it under control quickly.

Despite the wet late spring, much of the region is in a prolonged rainfall deficit, leading to drought conditions across much of the state.

The Oregon Department of Forestry hopes more tools will help its firefighters maintain control. The agency has added 10 smoke-detection cameras in fire-prone areas. ODF is also in advanced testing for nighttime Single-Engine Air Tanker operations, which means the agency soon be able to do air drops at night, a first for ODF.

Crews will need that extra help because they’ve also been trying to protect themselves from COVID-19. Firefighters are following a long list of safety protocols, including more sanitation, more PPE and social distancing.