ODF personnel on the west-side got a taste of what was coming clear back in January, when a rash of fires extending from the California border to Washington reignited during a dry, windy period. Firefighters responding to these winter blazes faced unusual challenges, including frozen water sources and snowbound access roads.
In mid-July when thunderstorms spawned several episodes of 10,000-plus lightning strikes per day, fire protection agencies quickly found themselves stretched. The lightning ignited dozens of major wildfires across Oregon and Washington and most recently, California.
As of this writing, two months or more of wildfire season lie ahead before the fall rains set in. The safest characterization of the 2014 season at this point might be: Bad currently, and possibly getting worse.
Whatever comes, ODF will stick with its time-tested strategy of aggressive initial attack.
“Consistent with our overriding goal, we have extinguished almost all fires on state-protected land at small size,” said Fire Protection Division Director Nancy Hirsch. “A few fires have grown large, requiring dispatch of incident management teams.”
In addition to hand crews and aircraft that the Legislature and forest landowners have supplied, ODF is tapping additional personnel and equipment through a network of agreements with other agencies, states, Canadian provinces and the National Guard.
The department is prepared for the long haul.