In wildfire season, lost acres decline


Last updated 9/12/2023 at 10:27am

Notwithstanding the tragedy of Maui, as the peak wildfire season draws to a close, national woodland firefighters and foresters are breathing a cautious sigh of relief. As of last Saturday, a total of 2.1 million acres have been lost to wildfire as compared to 7.58 million acres in all of 2022.

Mother Nature still has about six weeks to change the outcome, but for now things are looking good. In Sisters there have been about a dozen days where smoke put the air quality index at unhealthy levels.

2022 saw some huge fires in Oregon. The Double Creek fire that sparked on August 30 and burned until October 21 consumed 171,532 acres, making it the ninth-largest fire nationally that year. It took $39 million to fight. The Cedar Creek fire burned 127,311 acres and took over $133 million to battle.

A large fire is one that burns more than 40,000 acres. Thus far, none of our Oregon fires has reached that level. The Flat Fire has scorched 34,242 acres; the Bedrock, 31,590, and the Lookout, 24,457.

As of Saturday 427,442 acres were still burning in U.S. woodlands. Oregon has lost 105,274 acres through the week ending September 9. The trend has been noticeable. In 2022 Oregon lost 456,008 acres, a 45 percent decline from 2021, which itself was a 21 percent decrease from 2020 when 1.14 million acres were lost, including the catastrophic Labor Day fires.

The five-year average of acres burned in U.S. wildfires is 8.1 million and the 10-year average is 7.4 million. At current projections, 2023 could come in at 20 year lows.


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