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Oregon leaders warn of difficult wildfire season; urge prep

May 16, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon remains poised to see a potentially “challenging” wildfire season this summer, despite a wet and cool spring in much of western Oregon, one of the state’s top fire watchers said Monday.

The rain and snow have helped to push back a fire season that threatened to start as early as this month, according to Mike Shaw, fire chief with the Oregon Department of Forestry. But he noted much of the precipitation on the coast and in the Willamette Valley hasn’t made it over the Cascade Mountains to central, southern and eastern Oregon, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Expanding drought conditions there have set the stage for fires to spread rapidly later this summer, Shaw said.

“This will likely translate to a very challenging fire season,” Shaw said at a news conference. “The fires that start in these regions will be very hard to suppress.”

Gov. Kate Brown said climate change has added complexity to the state’s wildfire response. She has declared drought in 15 counties, the earliest Oregon has seen that level of water scarcity in recent history.

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The state is preparing with help from Senate Bill 762, which Brown signed into law last year. The bill provided for additional firefighting aircraft and money to hire more wildland firefighters.

Crews are expected to be strategically placed around the state.

The governor urged residents to sign up for emergency alerts through the state’s website, prepare a go-bag in case of evacuation orders and work to prevent fires.

“Most fires are human caused. Please be smart and be careful,” Brown said.