Fire experts predict ‘normal’ NW wildfire season

Sharp decrease from 2015's rampant wildfire damage

A helicopter makes a water bucket drop as it flies through smoky air while fighting a wildfire that flared up in the late afternoon near Omak, Wash., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Agency leaders at the Northwest Coordination Center announced Thursday they’re expecting a return to normal wildfire levels in 2016 for the Pacific Northwest.

More than 1.8 million acres were burned in Oregon and Washington in 2015, about three times the average over the past ten years.

Fire Weather Program Manager John Saltenberger says he doesn’t think this year will be nearly as damaging.

“At this point, I don’t see unusual risk for large costly fires for the Pacific Northwest through August 2016” said Saltenberger.

Saltenberger says climatologists are anticipating a shift from El Nino conditions to La Nina conditions, which traditionally lead to cooler temperatures late in the summer in the northwest. Those cooler temperatures could be a big help in limiting this year’s wildfire season.

While the ‘normal’ prediction is a definite improvement over 2015, agency leaders insisted it’s still far from perfect.

“Let me be the first to say having something resembling a normal fire season does include some periods of large fires,” said Saltenberger.

Fire agency leaders told KOIN they’re still preparing for the worst case scenario, even with better conditions than last year.

“We’ve brought all the agencies together, all the agency leaderships together, ran through scenarios, we’re doing training together,” said Pacific Northwest and Alaska Forest Service Fire Director Kevin Martin.

If you live in a place where wildfires are likely to occur, experts say you need to start prepping your home now. There have already been two separate wildfires in Washington in the past two weeks.

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