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Oregon’s large wildfires of recent years seen by OSU experts as precursor for future seasons

'The extreme events will become even more extreme'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As of last Friday, there have been 1,780 wildfires that have burned 802,415 acres in Oregon this year. Several drought and fire experts from Oregon State University held an online forum for reporters Tuesday to discuss this summer's fires, and say they're not surprised by the severe wildfires Oregon has seen of late.

Larry O'Neill, a wildfire expert at OSU, says we can expect to see similar fire behavior next year.

"Basically, what we saw this summer is going to be a precursor to what we can expect in the future," he said.

Experts say the type of fires that burned this year -- ones that take weeks to contain and can devastate forests and communities -- will become more common.

OSU faculty member James Johnston. who studies historical and contemporary patterns of wildfire in the Pacific Northwest, says the Bootleg fire is an example of this.

"There will absolutely, positively be more Bootleg fires in our future," he said.

O'Neill says extreme drought and heat are part of the reason our fires were so bad this year -- and we can expect to see more of those conditions as well.

"The extreme events will become even more extreme," he said.

Johnston says the fires we saw this summer showed there needs to be more work done to manage fuels, like prescribed burns.

"The only way to fight fire is with fire," Johnston says. "We don't have a choice about whether we're going to have fire on the landscape -- that's been the lesson of the 2021 and 2020 fire seasons. We only have a choice about when and where."

Erica Fischer, an assistant professor who studies fire in the wildland-urban interface, says we should treat fire like we do earthquakes or tsunamis. By being prepared for whatever will happen and understand our role in fire prevention.

"We can't put our blinders up and put it purely in the land management arena." She said. "Our communities are going to continue to get damaged if we continue to look at it that way."

Fischer encourages you to think about wildfires not as a season, but as fire decades.

According to Oregon Wildfire Response & Recovery, right now, there are seven large fires still burning in Oregon.

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.



  1. Forests need to be managed better, thinning, & logging need to be brought back. There used bo be a day when the USFS took care of this, but with government cut backs they’re no longer able to provide this service.

    1. Not so much cutbacks, as lawsuits, and a new breed of biologist that has been indoctrinated by liberal wacko college professors. Look to WSU to see what I mean.

    2. The extreme events will become even more extreme,” he said. Genius know it all.

      Not one person who cares about Arson is speaking on it!
      85% are arson caused!!!

            1. ODF classifies all fire started by humans the same. Or did you miss that part? Same as I do.
              Barney being book smart is not the same as common sense, you obviously missed .

  2. Duh. The forests have been mismanaged for over 40 years by inept forest service workers listing to brain dead eviro’s. Saying we are going to have more fires next year is like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow. You guys try to fool us that your smart by making such a bold prediction. Way to go. Sleep good central Oregon.

  3. The FS makes money fighting fires, overtime and hazard pay and !!!!. Let it build was the term they used a few years ago when I was in the know, the middle of it all. Loggers put out fires.

  4. Our forests are a clown fiesta. I’m a die hard environmentalist, but we need to completely rethink forest management. Logging needs to be ramped up, and I mean clear-cut, thinning, all of it. We need to exponentially increase controlled burns, and we need to employ woodland firefighters year-round to deal with this. Our forests are insanely overgrown, they are full of disease, and they are not healthy by any metric. Every fire is a disaster now, and it will only get worse unless we totally change direction as soon as possible.

    1. Who stole your login and password? You have been making too much sense lately. Somehow the “environmental “ movement brainwashed folks to think management was bad. We are reaping what they have sown. We need to go back to what was working before. Not to say that mistakes were not made years ago, but last 30 years of management has been a dismal failure.

  5. “Larry O’Neill, a wildfire expert at OSU, says we can expect to see similar fire behavior next year.” Larry needs to grab a Stihl and get busy but I suspect he doesn’t know what that little rope is for.

    Forest management of our states RENEWABLE resources and those responsible for for federal lands have done a poor job over the last few decades. (Logging) Roads used to be minimally maintained as firebreaks and a way to reach fires if they occur and use prescribed burns (in areas where people will see them) in order to say: ‘We’re doing something’.

    Remember Oregon, we used to have low property taxes because the timber harvested from our government lands was used to pay for schools. Trees I replanted as a late teen would make great 2x’s if cut and made in to lumber today as that was the intent at the time.

  6. When the environmentalists, with the blessings from Bill Clinton, locked up the forests and prevented healthy forest management, that’s when the forests began to deteriorate. No logging, no thinning, no taking out diseased trees…no replanting so areas would have healthy stands less subject to fire. It all came down to those who were proud to say ‘Let it Burn’, I hope they are pleased with themselves.

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