Big Fires: Oregon Fire History

August 24, 2015

11pm Monday…

The Okanogan Complex in Washington is now the state’s largest fire in history.  256,000 acres and still growing.  You may remember that last year’s Carlton Complex was the largest in the state’s history since the Yacolt Burn in 1902.

So how big have they been in Oregon?

The Silverton Fire in 1865 is the largest on record at just shy of one million acres!


By the way, for those of you not inclined to acres…it takes 640 acres to make one square mile.  So that fire burned about a 40 by 40 mile square!  Wow.

That was during a time of extremely large fires…from 1850 to around 1900 there were repeated huge burns in the Coast Range.  I didn’t even bother to put two more huge fires in the Coast Range from the late 1800s on the chart.  I had forgotten about the huge fire in SE Oregon 3 years ago…of course that was mainly rangeland, but a lot of acreage in just a few days!   The first big Tillamook Burn charred just over a quarter million acres in 1933 too.

After a huge firestorm in Idaho and western Montana in 1910, the USFS went to a “put out all fires” mentality for a long time so massive fires mostly disappeared in the Coast Range and Cascades.  Whether that has increased fire problems nowadays is well beyond my area of expertise (weather).  Someone else can tackle that subject.

The cooler and hopefully wetter weather coming up this weekend and early next week MAY really dampen the current fires.  We’ll see.  I see a bit of a drier trend in models the past 18 hours.  We’ll see.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen