Oregon Wildfires Increase with Post-quarantine Crowds

This summer has seen a 20 percent increase in human-caused fires compared to previous years, and post-quarantine crowds may be one of the reasons, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF).  

“The pandemic, if anything, has meant we’ve seen more human fires,” the ODF public information officer Jim Gersbach told Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). “So that is what’s different this summer, people are the problem.”  

Following months of Covid-19 quarantine, Oregonians have taken to mountains, forests, and the warm outdoors for socially-distanced getaways, but additional traffic on narrow mountain roads and poorly extinguished campfires can all contribute to fires.   

The bright side is that firefighters are able to reach car fires and out-of-control campfires more easily than wildfires, which could result in less damage. However, that security could all change with the weather.   

The previous yearly average of 70 percent of human-caused fires has jumped to an estimated 90 percent. Thunderstorms in dry conditions cause the remainder of the fires, though they have been few so far this summer.  Still, ODF is warning people who live in and visit dry wildland areas to take extra precautions for the remainder of fire season.   

“Fighting fires in hot and dry conditions is extremely taxing on those who are trained to protect our lands from fire,” ODF’s Western Lane District unit forester Chet Behling told OPB. “We are asking that our public remain mindful of this as they conduct activities throughout the coming days.”  

See the ODF website for their full list of safety precautions.  

By Jessica Goddard