Oregonians long for summer. It helps our mood. Tans our skin. Puts a smile on our faces….until fire strikes. Now, risk of fire in Oregon—and throughout the west- is very high. Gains from Oregon June rain are now lost. Fire to homes, business, forests and even cars…are a major risk for all Oregonians now through fall. We live midst amazing natural beauty and lots of fuel for fire.
On July 1, 2013 the National Interagency Fire Center warned of “above normal” risk of wild land fires through October, 2013. The agency attributes the elevated risk of fire to the long term drought across the western United States coupled with hot dry weather in July. Meanwhile, a fire weather watch is in effect as of yesterday for most of Central Oregon. As I write, dark clouds pass through Portland…heading east meaning increased risk of fire due to lightning strike.

Indeed, about 240 firefighters are now battling the Box Springs fire, located about 24 miles northeast of Prineville. Already, the Box Spring fire claimed 241 acres according to a statement today from the Oregon Department of Forestry. This morning, fire fighters battled fire threatening South Loop campgrounds at La Pine State Park as smoke crawled toward La Pine.

Settling smoke, wind shifts and low barometric pressure can cause smoke to settle onto roadways. Roadway visibility is reduced even further when fog combines with smoke. When planning a drive through areas, like central Oregon, where smoke and fog may combine, check the Low Visibility Risk Index (LVRI) with the National Weather Service (NWS) before travelling. July through October is the period when driving visibility is most likely to be severely reduced due to smoke, fog or a combination of the two.

Just yesterday a fire erupted in Benton County when a sleepy driver smashed into an electrical pole, which in turn caused electrical wires to fall on dry tinder. That fire is out, but the Box Springs fire rages on. Given the dry Oregon forecast other fires are soon to come. Be aware.