Northwest researchers release wildfire forecast

 Northwest researchers release wildfire forecast

27 July 2009

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USA — The week’s hot weather means there is a high risk of wildfire in Oregon’s forests.

There are currently four active fires in the state, the largest being the 3,200-acre McGinnis Creek Fire in central Oregon.

And now a new report suggests we may see a larger than usual fire season in parts Oregon due to dry conditions.

“The coast range of Oregon is significantly dry, and that’s unusual,” Ron Neilson, a professor of botany at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station.

“We’re not actually forecasting lots of fire there, but you have to take that with a lot of caution. Any time the coast range is that dry, you could get a big fire if there’s an ignition event,” Neilson said.

Neilson other forecasters found that conditions in western Oregon and Washington are “extremely dry.” But just because the region’s fuels are primed for ignition doesn’t mean there will necessarily be a number of large fires.

“It’s usually lightning storms that trigger multiple fires,” Neilson said. “Our computer models are pretty accurate at determining the vegetation, moisture and climatic conditions that set the stage for fire, but can’t always predict whether or not something will actually light them.”

Neilson and others project that about 3.66 million acres are expected to burn in the lower 48 states in wildfires this year. That’s relatively close to the 40-year average, and about half of the 10 million acres burned in 2000.

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