The summer’s lightning storms and extreme droughts left the Pacific Northwest parched and posed for wildfire chaos. This year, Oregon and Washington led the nation with a record number of fires burning approximately 1.3 million acres.
As of September 22, Oregon’s 1,934 fires had burned a total of 957,000 acres of state, federal, and private lands. Compared to the $235 million of last year, the total cost of fighting Oregon and Washington’s fires this year came to a whopping $446 million.
“It was a challenging, complex year,” Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, told The Oregonian. “Juggling all the moving parts of crews and equipment made the year stand out – and it will stand out for years.”
Finally, on September 24, the Mount Hood National Forest lifted all campfire restrictions through a fire order, signed by forest supervisor Lisa Northrop. The Umpqua and Siuslaw national forests also loosened fire restrictions.
Previous orders restricted campfire use in areas east of Oregon 35 to designated campfires equipped with fire rings. The orders also prohibited off-road vehicles on forest trails.
Forest officials made the decision after consulting weather models for the upcoming weeks. Officials believe the rain will ensure more consistent moisture and, consequentially, a decreased likelihood of wildfires.
A cool spring and summer in the country east of the Rocky Mountains emphasized Oregon’s unnaturally drought-ridden and windy summer.
The largest fire of the summer blazed over 395,747 acres in southeastern Oregon. Ignited by a lightning storm on July 5, the fire became known as the Buzzard Complex.
Drewsey Field Ranch owner Bill Wilber lost 39 head of cattle to the Buzzard Complex. “For me that was by far the most significant fire around here in my lifetime,” Wilber told The Oregonian. “We had never seen anything like it.”