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Heavy rains bringing fire season to early end


September 18, 2019

A DOWNPOUR late Monday afternoon, Sept. 16, soaks the downtown area.

Fire season is scheduled to end at 12:01 a.m. Thursday for the Oregon Department of Forestry South Cascade District, which includes the Sweet Home Unit.

"The moisture," said Unit Forester Craig Pettinger. "It's a season-ending rain. Mother Nature gave us a win this year."

Historically, Sweet Home experiences east winds in late September and October, he said. Those dry out the landscape.

"But with the amount of moisture we've had so far, it will have to be a substantial event to cause problems," he said. ODF will hold off allowing slash burning at least until next month though while fire officials continue watching the weather.

Pettinger doesn't know when the last time was that fire season ended in September, he said. "It's definitely out of the ordinary."

The state-mandated burn ban continues at least through Sept. 30, Pettinger said, but he imagines it will end then and backyard debris burning will probably be allowed beginning Oct. 1.

The Sweet Home Unit has responded to 65 reported fires this season, Pettinger said. Of those, nine were considered "stat" fires where firefighters had to take significant action.

That number is "very low," Pettinger said.

Fire season did not end until Oct. 28 last year. Last year, the Sweet Home Unit had 85 calls and 15 "stat" fires, also relatively low numbers.

"Last year, I would say we had fire weather, but we had an alert public," Pettinger said. Firefighters were able to get on fires quickly before they turned into a problem.

This year, Sweet Home just didn't have the high temperatures and the low relative humidity, Pettinger said.


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