High Desert feels the heat, lack of rain

As snowpack drops, escaped field burn stopped in Terrebonne

POSTED: 11:14 PM PST January 17, 2014    UPDATED: 9:22 PM PST January 18, 2014 
Firefighters respond to brush fire
TERREBONNE, Ore. -

Unusually dry conditions continue to plague the West, increasing the risk for fire early in the new year.

"Believe it or not, even though it is winter time, the fine fuels are drying out quickly in these kinds of conditions," Redmond Fire Marshal Traci Cooper said.

That was evident Friday afternoon, when Redmond firefighters were called to an out of control fire on farm land near Eby Court in Terrebonne.

"They luckily called 911, and crews were able to stop it at about an estimated 4 acres," Cooper said.

She says this time of year is usually perfect for ranchers and farmers to burn ditches and fields. With the abnormal dry winter, she says, use caution.

"Just a reminder, a head's up to people: The fine fuels are dry at this point -- and use caution," Cooper said.

With warm temperatures expected over the weekend, the U.S. Forest Service says the chances of a wildfire sparking in Central Oregon is still unlikely.

"We're not at a level where we have fear of fire," said Alex Robertson, deputy fire staff officer. "There isn't a heightened fire danger -- burning periods are really short still."

However, he added, fires on the High Desert get bad when they can burn overnight. With overnight temperatures in the 20s, that's unlikely.

In the Cascades, the snowpack continues to drop. As of Friday, the Deschutes and Crooked River Basin was at just 38 percent of normal. If more snow doesn't fall by summer, Central Oregon could be in for a harsh fire season.