Central Oregon

Forest Service chief visits High Desert

Tom Tidwell talks with crews as fire season heats up

Forest Service chief visits High Desert

REDMOND, Ore. - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell came to the High Desert on Saturday to meet with firefighting crews and others  due to the lightning-caused fires that broke out over the past several days.

Tidwell wanted to touch base and check up on the fires, to show the crews his support all the way from the nation's capital. With a blaze-filled fire season so far, officials are preparing for more to come.

"We think we may have as many as three to five more lightning episodes that are going to happen between now and the end of August," said Tom Harbour, the agency's national director of fire and aviation.

Tidwell said because of climate change and biomass, wildfires are different now than they were 10 years ago.

"Our fire seasons today are 60 to 80 days longer, which creates more energy in the system," Tidwell told NewsChannel 21 during his visit. "We see more erratic fire behavior."

Some of that erratic behavior is seen here on the High Desert; which has been on the radar of the Forest Service since the early start of the fire season.

"Central Oregon, certainly, with the combination of dry, the combination of people, the combination of forests that are at risk -- it's always one of those spots that we're going to watch," Harbour said.

With so much risk in the area, officials want you to be careful.

"Every time that we can prevent a human-caused fire, that's one less firefighter we have to put at risk," Tidwell said.

With the expectation of more fires to come this season, officials have geared up to best prevent them from growing large and threatening lives and property.

"The best large fire is the large fire that doesn't happen, so we try to keep our initial response, our initial action capacity always strong," Harbour said.

When it comes down to it, wildfires are inevitable, but Tidwell said they're committed to keeping you and our area as safe as possible.

"We're going to continue to have large fires," he said. "But through our accelerated efforts to restore these landscapes, we can reduce the threat so it's a lot easier to suppress these fires and it's a lot safer for our firefighters."

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