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Fire Season declaration comes early in northeast Oregon

Forest managers in northeast Oregon are declaring an early start to the 2021 fire season.

The announcement came Tuesday as firefighters were containing two wildfires ignited by lightning in the region. Joe Hessel, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s district forester for northeast Oregon, said conditions are atypical for this time of year.

“We’ve been seeing fire conditions and behavior that is more indicative of mid to late July recently.” Hessel said.

The fire season will began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for approximately 2 million acres of forest and range lands protected by the department. That means debris burning is prohibited, burn permits will not be issued for burn barrels or open burning, and logging and other industrial operations must have water supplies ready to extinguish any fires.

“In a normal season, we would have experienced spring moisture which typically delays the start of fire season until later in June,” Hessel said. “This season, significant amounts of moisture have been absent.”

Firefighters have contained 20% of the Joseph Canyon Fire that has burned 7,500 acres on the Oregon-Washington border.

Some 10 miles to the southeast, firefighters had the Dry Creek Fire, burning in a remote and rugged part of Hells Canyon near Joseph, Oregon, 50% contained, fire managers said. It has scorched 1,500 acres.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting