Forecast: Central Oregon highest risk for wildfires

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — As summer approaches forecasters say Central Oregon has the highest fire risk of anywhere in the state.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the latest fire season outlook, released this week by the National Interagency Fire Center, shows above-normal fire risk running down the middle of Oregon from the Columbia River to the California border for the month of May.

Meteorologist John Saltenberger, with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, says while the risk of high-severity fire in the region is low, persistent drought in Central Oregon could lead to combustible conditions.

“We do anticipate that on dry, windy days, if we get some of those in May, that there is risk of fires escaping,” Saltenberger said.

The outlook shows above-normal fire risk spreading across the state as the season progresses, snaking into southwest Oregon in July, then covering the majority of Oregon and Central Washington by August.

That’s despite much late-season precipitation in some parts of the Northwest.

Portland broke its rainfall record for April. The precipitation contributed to snowpack in higher elevations.

While above-average precipitation and snowpack can lessen an area’s wildfire risk, Saltenberger said the top factor is summer weather, especially wind and lightning.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects areas east of the Cascades are likely to experience above-average temperatures, while almost the entire Pacific Northwest is likely to see below-average precipitation this summer.