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Comparison of this year’s NW wildfires to last year shows a stark difference — so far

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- While we've seen several large wildfires burn throughout Oregon and Washington this summer, especially in recent weeks, it's been a more mild fire season than we experienced a year ago.

The West has seen severe drought, extreme temperatures, and historic wildfires over the past two years. But what a difference a year makes.

Jean Nelson-Dean, public information officer for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, says it's hard to predict what a fire season will bring.

"Fire prediction is just like a lot of other things, you never know until it actually happens," she told NewsChannel 21 on Thursday.

This time last year, there were 86 larger fires burning across Oregon and Washington. This year, that number is 21.

If we compare 2021 to 2022, we see a stark difference in total acres burned, so far. In August 2021, 1.33 million acres were burned. This year, so far, just 119,000 acres have burned.

"I think there were some surprises for us," Nelson-Dean said.

Nelson-Dean says this year's conditions made for a less severe fire season. Central Oregon's wet spring and cooler temperatures early on helped keep fire fuels from drying up as quickly. And we've seen -- again, so far --- just a third of the lightning strikes this year than last.

But it's been very hot lately, so we're clearly not out of the woods yet. Late August and September are also expected to be hot and dry.

"Just because things are looking good right now, I don't want anyone to take that for granted. We still have dry fuels out there," Nelson-Dean said. "Please, everyone, do their part to make sure we don't have human-caused starts."

Even though this year has been milder, over the past 10 years, we've still seen an upward trend in the amount of land burned by summer wildfires across the Northwest.

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Carly Keenan

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

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