BEND, Ore. - The snow has melted at the lower elevations in Central Oregon, and the U.S. Forest Service is preparing for this year's wildfire season.
They're going through weather projections for the next few months, trying to get a handle on what this fire season could look like. Precipitation is an obvious predictor, and a lot of rain could push back fire season a while.
But about half of all wildfires are caused by one natural event, and it's one that's pretty difficult to predict.
"Last year, we were really dry but we didn't have a lot of lightning," Central Oregon Fire Staff Officer Alex Robertson said Monday. "So that kind of made it less of a fire season, but the fuels and the dryness of everything was right at where it would be on any given year."
As for precipitation, the Forest Service said it's looking like a normal season ahead of us.
But what about all that melt and groundwater left over from this winter? All the moisture from the winter has been soaked up by the ground, and that creates more vegetation, come spring and summer. But that added potential wildfire fuel doesn't necessarily mean more fires.
"When it's green and lush and moist and everything while it's growing, that's fine," Robertson said. "That's not a problem. It's once it dries out. And that takes a continuous period of dry."
In other words, we're back to guessing what the next few months look like. The flammability of all that extra growth depends on it.
As far as prescribed burns, the Forest Service is following its regular protocol this year.