Forest and weather officials look at recent weather effects on fire season
With a few wildfires breaking out, the Oregon Department of Forestry said we are not technically in the official fire season, until declared by local fire agencies. However, public information officer Brian Ballou said it's common to see a few pre-season fires, but not as widespread or early as the Medco B fire was this weekend.
National Weather Service meteorologist Shad Keene said southern Oregon experienced a very wet February and has transitioned to very dry conditions over the last two weeks. He said we are "well below normal" in terms of precipitation with "above normal" for April and May temperatures.
"We were a little surprised to see a couple wildfires so early," Keene said. "But we've had broad, dry northeast winds and very warm temperatures and things have been drying out pretty rapidly recently."
With the Medco B fire, Ballou said it was the strong wind that accelerated it's growth to almost double in size. With a long drying trend that started in April, ODF said the current weather conditions are not looking good when it comes to fire danger.
"Since we started with a really long drying trend for the spring in the middle of April and we're still in that same drying spell," Ballou said. "I don't know when it's going to end. It's not a good way to start the longer fire season. This is a larger than normal fire at a fairly high elevation that we would normally expect, looking at year's past but things are changing now."
The National Weather Service said these signs all point to an earlier wildfire season.
"Typically if we have a dry spring and warm temperatures in the springtime, fire season would lean towards starting earlier," Keene said. "But, we don't make predictions in terms of when fire season will start."
Even though we experienced above average snow pack this winter, Keene said their research shows the snow has no impact on fire season.
"We found no correlation between snow pack on April 1 and smoke in the valley," Keene said. "Just because you have a significant snow pack does not mean you're going to see a less fires."