Campers urged to be cautious this weekend amid very dry, warm and windy conditions
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Central Oregon campers, hikers and those who recreate are sure to be out this weekend for Memorial Day amid stellar, even summer-like weather. With camping comes campfires -- and this dry spring has brought a higher risk for wildfires.
Last year, the Deschutes National Forest saw a 40 percent increase in the number of people who were outdoors in the forest over Memorial Day weekend. This year, AAA reports that about 485,000 Oregonians plan to travel over the Memorial Day weekend, a big increase from 2020.
More people means the possibility of more campfires -- and two out of three wildfires in the Deschutes National Forest are caused by humans.
Although Central Oregon has seen recent rainfall, it doesn't mean the risk of fires decreases -- and temperatures are expected to soar, as well.
Even one hot coal can start a fire, Jean Nelson-Dean, public affairs officer for the Deschutes National Forest, told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.
"People should not be complacent just because we've seen some moisture. That doesn't mean the fuels can't dry out quickly and really -- that one spark, one ember can cause a significant problem," Nelson-Dean said. "So if you love our national forest, please -- take care -- put your campfire out."
Dan Derlacki, deputy fire marshal with Bend Fire & Rescue, says in an average year, there are three to four escaped burns in the spring. This year, there's already been around 30 -- and May is considered very early to be seeing wildfires.
The Fourth of July is usually firefighters' busiest day of the year. But Derlacki says people need to be extra-careful this weekend with their Memorial Day activities, because of how dry and windy it's been this year.
"We've had many, many times more escaped burns -- unintentional fires from campfires -- than we've had in many years in the past. It's so dry and so windy this spring -- this is the windiest spring I can remember," said Derlacki.
This year, the wildfire season is expected to be intense.
"So we're asking people to be smart with fire," Derlacki said.