Much-needed rain closing 2012 wildfire season

State spent more than $101 million fighting large fires

Much-needed rain closing 2012 wildfire season

BEND, Ore. - Rain falling across much of Oregon Monday means the late but long 2012 fire season is rapidly, finally coming to an end.

Mark Rapp, a fire management specialist with the Deschutes National Forest, says fire season got off to a slow start here in Oregon. But thanks to extremely dry weather things picked up towards the middle of July.

"Fire season was probably really classified as average, based on historical records," said Rapp. "We had a little bit of a longer season. It went well into October, which is kind of a different patter than we normally have."

The state saw its share of large wildfires, defined as any fire larger than 100 acres in timber and forest fuels and larger than 300 acres in grass fuels.

Preliminary numbers released by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland shows since the year began, the state has spent $101 million fighting the blazes.

The largest fire, the Barry Point Fire in southern Oregon had a price tag of just over $23 million. Closer to home , the Pole Creek Fire near Sisters, still only 90 percent contained, has cost taxpayers more than $17 million.

"We're about at the 10-year average, with 46,000 to 47,000 total burned acres (in Central Oregon)," Rapp said.

With fall in full swing and winter just around the corner, it's the lessons learned from this fire season which will help in the years to come.

"The season seems to be getting a little longer by a few weeks," said Rapp. "This season definitely showed us that."

Fire officials said Monday the Pole Creek fire is 90 percent contained and likely won't see full containment until the first snowfall.

Forest Service and BLM officials also issued the following news release:

After receiving rain over most of the forest, officials with the Deschutes National Forest have made the decision to lift public fire use restrictions, effective 12:01 a.m. October 16, 2012 (Tuesday). With this change, all public use restrictions will have been lifted on lands administered by the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, including the Crooked River National Grassland, and the Prineville District, Bureau of Land Management.

Also effective 12:01 a.m. October 16, 2012 (Tuesday), the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) will drop to a Level I on the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Crooked River National Grassland and the Prineville BLM. Industrial Fire Precaution Levels govern permitted commercial and industrial operations on public lands such as woodcutting, off-road travel, road maintenance, welding, and timber cutting operations including felling, cable yarding, and loading. Standard fire precaution requirements remain in effect including a fire watch unless waived.

While restrictions are dropping across the state, some restrictions may still be in place. People traveling to work or recreate in other parts of the state should remember to call before they travel to find out what restrictions are in place before having a campfire or cutting firewood.

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