Wildfires Started By Humans Have Decreased By About 20% In Oregon

According to data collected by the state, the wildfire season in Oregon in 2022 was one of the mildest in the past 10 years, with the number of fires sparked by humans dropping by over 20% compared to the 10-year norm.

Wildfires are caused almost exclusively by humans, both in Oregon and elsewhere in the United States.

The Oregon Department of Forestry attributes the decrease in wildfires to a spring that was wetter than average, statewide investments in firefighting crew, aircraft, and detection cameras, as well as a comprehensive public message campaign about the risks of wildfires.

In Oregon, there have been a total of 806 wildfires that have required their attention so far this year, which is lower than the 10-year average of 973. This year, humans were responsible for 587 of the fires, which is a decrease from the 10-year average of 717 and a decrease of nearly 35% from the peak of 898 in 2017. According to the information provided by the forestry department, lightning was the cause of the other 219 fires that occurred this year.

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Mike Shaw, the chief of fire protection for the department, testified at a recent hearing of the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery. He stated that it is difficult to know how much of a role each factor played, but he attributed a large portion of the decline in human-caused wildfires to the public information campaign. The hearing was on wildfire recovery.

Following closely on the heels of the years 2020 and 2021, I believe those preventative messages really hit home with the people. “That’s my perspective, but it’s difficult to measure whether or not that’s accurate,” he remarked.

Approximately 97% of wildfires that occurred this year were contained after they had burned little more than 10 acres.

Wildfires Started By Humans Have Decreased
Wildfires Started By Humans Have Decreased

In total, slightly over 33,600 acres have been destroyed by fires, which is significantly less than the 10-year average of 117,827 acres.

Shaw also acknowledged the passing of Senate Bill 762, which was approved in 2021 and earmarked $220 million to assist Oregon in improving its preparedness and response to wildfires. Shaw said this was one of the factors that helped the state. The funds were utilised to expand the number of smoke detection cameras located across the state as well as enhance the amount of time spent conducting aerial searches for fires.

According to Jason Cox, a spokesman for the forestry department, the department logged 100 hours of nighttime flights during the summer using infrared and night-vision goggles to detect fires. As a result of these flights, the department was able to discover and report 56 fires that had previously gone unnoticed and unreported. This department is the only one in the country that uses all of these techniques together to detect fires.

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During the meeting of the committee, Shaw made the following statement: “If we would not have had the aircraft that we have, we would not have been able to catch those flames that are of a little size. As a result, they would have grown substantially larger and cost much more to suppress.”

In addition, Senate Bill 762 established a grant programme with a budget of $6 million to help fire departments around the state hire additional personnel in preparation for the upcoming fire season.

According to Travis Medina, chief deputy for the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the awards enabled 180 agencies across the state to hire 450 extra staff members. This was done as a result of the grants.

According to Medina, “what it really did was allow,” particularly some of the smaller departments, to have personnel ready to respond promptly. “What that really did was allow” They were able to increase their staffing levels during times of high risk.

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