Investments in Oregon’s wildland firefighting system, less lightning and the timely arrival of soaking fall rains helped make the 2023 wildfire season one of the mildest in recent years
Although an average number of wildfires occurred in 2023, total acres burned statewide were 119,526. This was about 16% of the 10-year average.
Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) officials credit investments in additional staffing and firefighting aircraft from the 2021 Legislature for helping the agency’s aggressive approach to initial attack be more successful at controlling wildfires while still small. This approach helped preserve natural resources, protect communities, and increase firefighter safety.
By Oct. 18, all ODF districts statewide had declared an end to fire restrictions. Year to date, there have been 975 fires on lands protected by ODF, resulting in 17,968 acres burned. The department put out 94 percent of those fires at 10 acres or fewer this year.
Three ODF Type 1 Incident Management Teams (IMT) were deployed this season: one to the Golden Fire in the Klamath-Lake District, and two to the Tyee Ridge Complex in the Douglas Forest Protective Association district.
“This year, I would say was the year of partnership,” Mike Shaw, Protection Division Chief, said. “We had several opportunities this year to help our local, state, and federal partners keep Oregon safe from wildfire, and vice versa.”
Starting in May, ODF deployed firefighter IMT members to Alberta, Canada through the Northwest Compact—an agreement created to facilitate assistance in wildland fire pre-suppression and suppression efforts between member agencies. In August, an ODF Type 3 IMT was deployed to manage the Wiley Creek Fire to assist our partners at The Willamette National Forest. ODF also supported local fire service agencies and the Oregon State Fire Marshal multiple times throughout the summer by deploying aircraft when called upon and sharing personnel and other resources. Lastly, the department remained engaged with partners during long-term fire events and offered resources or advice wherever needed.
As Oregon transitions out of fire season, ODF districts across the state are shifting their attention to wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts. Clearing vegetation, prescribed burns, creating defensible space around homes, and safely burning debris piles are just a few ways ODF is working with local landowners, members of the public and fellow fire response agencies to mitigate wildfire risk.
For more tips on how to keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe from wildfire at any time of year, visit ODF’s Fire Prevention website or Keep Oregon Green’s website.