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July Means Warm Summer Nights And Big Fire Potential In The Northwest

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry
Firefighters work the Graham Fire in central Oregon, which occurred earlier this month.

From Bend, Oregon, to Ellensburg, Washington, there is a fire weather watch Friday for hot temperatures, low humidity and breezy weather.

If you think there’s already been a lot of wildfires in the Northwest this year, you’re right. 

Already this year, Washington has seen more than 500 wildfires and Oregon nearly 400 on their state-protected lands. For both states, that’s high for the first half of the year.

That’s 104 more fires on Oregon’s state-protected lands so far, than compared to the 10-year average. 

And that means it’s the second worst year in a decade in terms of wildfire starts. And 2018 is already the third worst year for acres burned in Oregon to date since 2008.

Aaron Schmidt with the WashingtonDepartment of Natural Resourcessays three things happen in July that could make more frequent fires start go big. There’s less humidity at night, not as much rain, and fuels become more cured.

"The large fire potential increases," Schmidt said. "That does cause me to worry, or at least a heightened sense of concern.”

Both Washington and Oregon position resources across the state for quick reactions to hopefully stay ahead of the fires. But sometimes, Schmidt says, there are just too many different fires burning, and the conditions are too tough to keep the fires all small and put out.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.