Category Archives: Weather

In the news: Start summer right by brushing up on campfire safety

Enjoying a campfire safely in a designated fire pit while camping at Malhuer National Forest, July 4, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Shilo Burton.

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer in the Pacific Northwest. With warmer weather and dry conditions already present or on their way, state and federal land management agencies – including the USDA Forest Service – are reminding recreationalists that we need everyone’s help to prevent human-caused fires on our forests and other public lands.

You can find some great campfire safety tips from Chris Havel at Oregon Parks and Recreation Department the KTVZ-TV 21 story, linked below.

Full story, via KTVZ-TV 21: https://www.ktvz.com/news/campfire-safety-tips-given-as-summer-trips-beckon/1079597496

Other frequent sources of unplanned wildland fire include backyard debris burning, and motor vehicles, chains, or other equipment that heats up or throws sparks in proximity to dry grass or brush. Find more information and tips to reduce the risks at https://www.smokeybear.com/en.

In the News: How to summit Mt. Hood safely

View of Mt. Hood from Timothy Lake with hillside trees and forest in the foreground, Mt Hood National Forest, Jan. 18, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

We talk a lot about the 10 Outdoor Essentials here at Your Northwest Forests, and there’s a reason for it- again and again, we’ve seen that when the unexpected occurs, just a little preparation can make the difference between an uncomfortable experience and a life-threatening emergency.

That goes even more so for technical climbing, such as the increasingly popular snow- and ice- covered climbs approaching the summit of mountains located just beyond the Pacific Northwest’s urban areas, like Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood.

This KGW-TV story, produced with assistance from volunteers from Portland Mountain Rescue, does a great job showing why the mountain appeals to so many – and why such climbs are so dangerous, even when many other visitors seem to be using the same route and summer weather is imminent.

Full story, via KGW.com: https://www.kgw.com/article/news/local/key-safety-tips-for-climbing-mount-hood/283-bd294b2f-8499-4127-9863-dacc1887936e

When fire fights fire: Managing wildland fire risk through prescribed burns, active fire management

A wildland firefighter lights brush using a drip torch during a prescribed fire on the Colville National Forest April 9, 2001. Prescribed fires are typically set during the spring to improve forest health while weather conditions remain cool and the forest is still moist from spring rains, which allows fires to burn more slowly and with less intensity than fires that occur in the hot mid-summer months. USDA Forest Service photo.

Pacific Northwest communities have always lived with the risk of wildland fire – but our understanding of how we can manage that risk continues to evolve.

While many Native American tribes used fire as a tool to manage the landscape, the population growth that came with America’s westward expansion shifted land managers’ focus. People living in the west began to prioritize putting out wildland fires before they grew too large, or spread into their communities.

More than a century later, we’ve learned that fire is needed to keep many western ecosystems healthy – from releasing seeds of waxy ponderosa pinecones, to clearing land of invasive vegetation and creating more space for fire-resistant seeds of native grasses and wildflower species to germinate and thrive, providing the ideal food and habitat for many bugs, butterflies, and other wildlife that’s native to the area.

Land managers now know that preventing fires now can lead to more serious, more damaging fires later as more fuel accumulates on the forest floor – incinerating soils that would be enriched by less intense fire, and scorching even mature, thick-barked native trees past the point survival.

Without fire to clear smaller saplings and brush, trees become crowded – deprived of needed sunlight, susceptible to drought, and at greater risk of dying from diseases, parasites, and insect infestations.

In this video, Doug Grafe, fire protection chief for the Oregon Department of Forestry, explains how fuel reduction through active management and through prescribed fire can help with the prevention of catastrophic wildfires.


Source information: USDA Forest Service (via YouTube)

In the News: Record snows at Mt. Baker this ski season

A chairlift on a snowy mountain

Great news for western Washington-based skiers!

The weather team at KING 5 in Seattle, Wash. reported Tuesday that Mt. Baker Ski Area on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has received a record 437 inches of snow so far, this season – including 105 inches in February, alone.

And today, station staff Tweeted that Crystal Mountain ski area, also on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, received 11 inches of snowfall in the past 24 hours, and that Mt. Baker received an additional 8 inches of snow!

Reminder: If you’re headed to the Cascades, driving through any Pacific Northwest mountains, this season – remember weather conditions in mountain passes and at the summit can be very different than those at lower and coastal elevations, and also conditions further inland!

Long delays while waiting for avalanche conditions or severe weather to clear are common.

Be prepared! Make sure your vehicle has a full tank of fuel, traction tires and chains / traction devices, and warm clothing or blankets in case you find yourself stopped… or stuck.

Forest Service credits forest treatments for containment of Timber Crater 6 fire

A fire burns alongside a road in an area of previously thinned forest.

The Forest Service often talks about using thinning and prescribed fire for “fuels reduction” and forest restoration – but in recent years, wildfires that crossed paths with these treated areas have provided vivid demonstrations of how these treatments not only improve forest health, but also reduce the intensity and challenge of containing later wildfires, improving public safety and firefighters.

In mid-July, a lightning storm passed through southern Oregon, igniting multiple fires in the drought-stressed forest in and around Crater Lake National Park. Firefighters quickly contained most of these fires, but several grew together and became the Timber Crater 6 Fire. It was projected to grow as large as 20,000 acres. But earlier fuels treatment projects conducted in the area allowed firefighters to pursue an aggressive full-suppression strategy, which kept the fire to just 3,100 acres.

 

firefighters working among well-spaced pine trees

Thinning projects improve tree spacing and remove dead trees, while prescribed fire helps reduce ground duff and underbrush that could cause future fires to burn faster and with more intensity. Because ground plants and grasses have evolved with regular wildland fires in this region, native species often rebound quickly following low-intensity burns, while high-intensity fires may kill trees and damage surrounding soil. USDA Forest Service photo.

Over the years, the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Crater Lake National Park have worked collaboratively on a variety of thinning and prescribed burning projects in the Antelope Desert area of the Chemult Ranger District.

The Timber Crater 6 Fire was burning in an area with heavy fuels with few breaks where firefighters could work safely. Fire behavior can be extreme under these conditions. But, the nearby treated areas gave firefighters safe ground to operate and respond under more favorable conditions. The treated areas were critical in keeping the wildfire shorter in duration, less costly, safer for firefighters, less threatening to private property, and with few smoke and economic impacts to local communities.

Often, firefighters need to do significant preparation before starting a burnout operation, including removing trees, chipping, and digging fire lines. The burned area, now cleared of potential fuels, can then serve a “fire break” against a advancing, larger fire.

Two firefighters use a chainsaw to clear brush below a stand of pine trees.

Firefighters prepare an area for burnout operations on Fremont-Winema National Forest as part of efforts to contain the 2018 Timber Crater 6 fire. USDA Forest Service photo.

Because the treated areas required little prep work, crews were able to move in quickly to conduct a burnout operation, and confining the most dangerous part of the fire and removing fuels in its path.

In less than three weeks, the Timber Crater 6 fire was confined to just 3,126 acres and many firefighters were freed up early to move on to other fires.

Old-growth Ponderosa pine trees were protected from high-intensity wildfire, no community evacuations were required, and this fire did not contribute to the longer duration smoke impacts that occurred across the region this season.

The Timber Crater 6 fire demonstrates the value of fuels treatment projects. Many areas across the Pacific Northwest, especially in the wildland urban interface, need thinning and prescribed burning to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk.

That’s why the Forest Service is working closely with state partners and local communities to increase the number and size of these fuels reduction projects in conjunction with efforts to strengthen fire-adapted community preparedness.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff

In the News: Abnormally dry to drought conditions continue across Pacific Northwest

Creek at Forest Road 2204, Olympic National Forest May 31, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Douglas Parrish.

Capitol Press reports that moisture across Washington and Oregon ranges from extremely dry to drought conditions, with little relief expected in the next three months.

According to the article, the region’s most extreme drought conditions are centered on southwest Oregon, with drought conditions extending across Oregon and western Washington, and extremely dry conditions continuing through central and eastern Oregon.

Stream flows in Oregon are running an average of 50% below normal this summer, ranging from 30 percent in the John Day basin to as much as 80 percent in the South Coast region.

Full story: http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20180829/drought-lingers-across-northwest

Smoke is in the air – how to prepare, protect yourself

map showing July 23, 2018 air quality and smoke data

In the news: Can ‘Moneyball’ fix how the West manages wildfire?

flames and smoke are visible along a tree-lined ridge in a photo taken from a vehicle window

“Can ‘Moneyball’ Fix How The West Manages Wildfire?” That’s the question posed by EarthFix reporter Tony Schick in a story posted today to Oregon Public Radio’s website.

He follows USDA Forest Service researchers, employees, and partners on their dive deep into the data for western wildfires, exploring the many factors that influence decisions pressures on when to fight fires, when to let them do their ecological work, and why it’s often hard for land managers to make that call.

Read more, at OPB.org: https://www.opb.org/news/article/fire-wildfire-west-management-science-data-risk-moneyball/

NIFC reports 1,300 lightning strikes in S. Oregon overnight

Map depicting heavy lightning in southern Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. – June 16, 2018 –The Northwest Interagency Fire Information Center reports higher-than-average temperatures, low humidity, and lack of rain are contributing to new fire starts in southern Oregon following thunderstorms that brought more than 13,000 lightning strikes in the past 24 hours.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, located in southwest Oregon, reported more than 100 new fire starts today, following the storms, and is implementing seasonal restrictions on potentially fire-causing activities on the forest.

The Umpqua National Forest also announced seasonal fire restrictions are in effect on that forest, beginning today, due to the hot, dry weather and rising wildland fire risk.

The Klamathon Fire, which has been burning in north-central California just south of the Oregon border, is 90 percent contained as of this morning, according to Inciweb. a federal and state inter-agency wildland fire incident information system.

The National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore. has issued a red flag warning for southern Oregon from Tuesday, July 17 at 1 p.m. through Wednesday, July 18 at 8 p.m. due to forecasted wind gusts and continuing dry weather creating elevated fire risk and potential for extreme fire behavior.

Read more Pacific NW wildland fire-related news and weather info on the Northwest Fire Information Center blog: http://nwccinfo.blogspot.com/.

For more information about specific, large (named) fires, visit InciWeb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/.

Map depicting heavy lightning in southern Oregon

The Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center in Portland, OR reported 1336 lightning strikes in 24 hours in southern Oregon, from 8 a.m. July 15 to 8 a.m. July 16, 2018.


Source Information: Northwest Fire Information Center, InciWeb, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Umpqua National Forest (staff reports)