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OSU experts discuss conditions, causes of early wildfire season

80% of wildfires are human-caused

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --Oregon State University held an online wildfire and drought forum Monday on what Oregonians can expect as this fire season hits full swing.

Oregon State Climatologist Larry O'Neill described how the current drought could make it a tough summer for us.

O’Neill said mountain snowpack is basically "melted," meaning there is no major precipitation event that will likely change how dry the region is.

"Prineville (Reservoir) is projected empty. Wickiup (Reservoir) will be projected empty. There will be no carry-over in Eastern Oregon reservoirs going into the next water year, so things are looking a little bit bleak," said O’Neill.

Other experts said the duration of fire season on the West Coast has been starting earlier due to lower humidity in the region.

"Where there's an effort to suppress fires, that decrease in humidity, especially overnight, makes fires more difficult to suppress," said Erica Fleishman, the director of Oregon Climate Change Research.

The main hazard of fire season is not the dry weather or thunderstorms, but people, as experts say 80% of wildfires are human-caused.

"So while we can't do a whole lot about the drought conditions we're facing right now , we can do a whole lot about the ignition sources," said Lisa Ellsworth, an assistant professor with OSU's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Fleishman explained the different ways that people cause fires.

"That doesn't mean necessarily someone being careless or someone being malicious. But it can mean power lines going down, just the fact that where there are humans and there are humans doing things and there's human infrastructure, there will be sparks," she said.

Experts urge you to get ready and prepare for the wildfire season, as many areas of Central Oregon are at their driest, or second-driest conditions ever recorded.

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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.



  1. WHen Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate accords, he doomed the west to this fate. This is 100% squarely Donald Trump’s fault.

    1. TDS is still alive and well? Do you really think the USA throwing lots of money into the Paris thing will make it rain and snow more here? Wow….

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