Forest officials say fire danger remains high despite rain showers

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U.S. Forest Service photo

Saying the Northwest wildfire season has been a wide-scale disaster this year, two top federal forest officials warned today that fire danger remains extremely high even with intermittent rain showers in the forecast.

Bureau of Land Management Washington-Oregon director Barry Bushue and Forest Service Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa said in an open letter that in the weeks ahead there will be many conversations about management of public lands.

Barry Bushue, State Director, Oregon/Washington, Bureau of Land Management, left, and Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester, Pacific Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service.

“We are in the midst of two historic wide-scale disasters: the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires, the extent of which none of us has experienced in our lifetimes,” the two said in the letter. “As a community, our resilience will be challenged by this disaster and its aftermath for many weeks and months to come.”

Firefighters continue to battle more than 30 major fires in Washington and Oregon.

More than a million acres in Oregon and more than 700,000 acres in Washington have burned this year.

The Pearl Hill Fire in Douglas County is the biggest fire in both states at 223,000 acres. The Cold Springs Fire in Okanogan County is the third largest at almost 190,000 acres.

The Cold Springs Fire ignited the Pearl Hill Fire on Labor Day when embers from the fire jumped the Columbia River into Douglas County.

Both fires have been largely contained.

Bushue and Cazamassa said as firefighting efforts continue “our hearts are heavy over the devastation. These are our communities too. We have only begun to see the extent of these losses, and we will not know their full impact until the fires are out.”

Steps needed to help prevent a recurrence of such a wildfire season needs to be studied, they said.

“We look forward to working together on realistic, long-term solutions to rebuild healthy forests.”