(Update: Adding video, comment from fire program weather manager)
Already two major wildfires this year
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After last year’s devastating wildfires, Oregon officials are again bracing for an above-average fire season.
John Saltenberger, fire program weather manager for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, said the conditions are ripe for a rough, fiery summer.
"We're going into fire season, '20-21 already in a drought debt for Central Oregon that shows every sign of worsening as we get into late spring and summer," he told NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday.
And that's not good, after a record 2020 fire season.
"High fire danger early in the season means we can get a longer season," Saltenberger said.
Already this season, Central Oregon has seen a 200-acre fire near Bend, with the Bull Springs fire. And there was a 1,600-acre blaze last week in Klamath County.
"For Central Oregon, I'm looking at fine dead fuel moisture values which are running at just above 10 percent right now, " Salenberger said.
That's a number typically seen around the height of fire season, he said.
Central Oregon is in a drought, with every city in Central Oregon is either under a severe or extreme drought.
This is why land management agencies do prescribed burns like the one in Shevlin Park on Wednesday that put up a smoke plume visible across the area.
But Saltenberger added that just because there's high fire danger doesn't necessarily mean a severe fire season.
"High fire danger must be coupled with some kind of propelling event, like a windstorm or instability in the atmosphere," he said.
Last year, it was a Labor Day windstorm that contributed to a fire season that burned more than one million acres across the state.