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Climatologists predict growing fire seasons in the years ahead

Flounce Fire, (KTVL/Megan Allison)
Flounce Fire, (KTVL/Megan Allison)
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PROSPECT, Ore. -- With only one major fire this season, the Oregon Department of Forestry says for ODF lands this summer was a success.

But the department's public information officer says they're noticing increasing challenges every year.

"As time has gone on the past ten years or so or even looking back further there definitely is an increase in wildfires and their intensity," Melissa Cano said.

The National Climate Assessment predicts the number of acres burned by wildfires in the Northwest could quadruple by the end of the century.

Already, Cano said ODF's time spent fighting fires is cutting into prevention.

"Fire season ends, we go into prevention mode, and it goes full circle. However as these fire seasons continue to get longer and longer our prevention gets pushed back more and more so there needs to be that balance of firefighters not only putting out fires but getting that prevention message out to folks right after the fires are out," she said.

Southern Oregon Climate Action Now brings together scientists like Alan Journet to study the impact of this.

"When we look at the forests of the Pacific Northwest what we're seeing firstly are forests that are fire adapted. But we're also understanding that the conditions that stimulate fire are increasing the risk of fire," Journet said.

Fire agencies are also looking to adapt to drier soil and fuels leading into the summer.

"That's key. We can't keep the same staffing levels as these wildfires increase in intensity. We're always calling more people in and therefore if it allows, creating new positions. And that's probably going to be the future," Cano said.

Right now Senators Wyden and Merkley are working with the legislature to develop protection for forest lands during changing fire seasons in the years ahead.

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