Fire Season 2018 Winds Down…A Lucky Year in NW Oregon & SW Washington

5pm Thursday…

(First a quick note about our website & apps:  Thanks for all your patience over the past week as we switched providers for our website and apps.  It was a bit rough but I think everything is now back to normal on all platforms.  Note that on the website we have a new menu; “current conditions” on the left side; it has a few new images…check that one out.)


This has been a tough fire season again across the West.  Although some spots have been spared in our region.

In Oregon there have been two “hot spots”through the fire season.  That’s the numerous lightning-caused fires across SW Oregon that have burned for two months.  And then several very large fires (some from lightning, some human-caused) across north-central Oregon.

Assuming some huge new fire doesn’t break out in the next few weeks, (unlikely looking ahead weatherwise) I think we are well past the big danger period for this season.

Who got lucky in our area?

There were no major fires across most of NE Oregon, the northern Oregon Cascades, all of NW Oregon, and all of SW Washington.  As of this moment total acreage burned across the Pacific Northwest is significantly DOWN from last year as well…around 700,000 acres vs 1,100,000 or so last year.

Considering late spring and early summer was the driest or 2nd driest on record in our area I think we were very lucky.  It’s most likely due to lack of lightning.  For a second season it seems we had very little thunderstorm action both in the mountains and down here in the lowlands.  I don’t have the stats to back that up (yet), but I’ll find them eventually.

Fire Fuel Moisture Oregon2

The showers and cooler weather most of the time since late August has helped tremendously in the Cascades.  Check out the Log Creek “1000 hr fuel” moisture level this summer:  the black line is this year, yellow is last summer.   Blue is the average…you notice the woods in that area are typically driest in late August and then moisture increases in September.

Fire Fuel Moisture Oregon

This year we were running exceptionally dry through the third week of August, but then some showers brought us back up to average for that time of year.  Then you see showers the past few days have brought fuel moisture back ABOVE average for early September.  With more showers through the weekend and again later next week I have no reason to believe those fuels will dry out again.  Notice that huge dump of rain last September that put an end to the fire season.

To summarize:

  1. Much of Oregon remains dry, but cooler temperatures have lowered fire danger even in those spots
  2. Fire Season 2018 is winding down quickly west of and on the west slopes of the Cascades.  It’s not over yet, but the chance of large fires developing is going downhill.
  3. For the 2nd consecutive year fire season is ending a bit early; I doubt anyone is complaining!

As for weather…looking ahead I see a continuation of below-average temperatures through next week but Monday through Thursday should be dry.  Note the ECMWF ensemble high temperature forecast looks like early October


I love this graphic…the 24 hr accumulated precipitation product from the ECMWF ensembles.   You can glean lots of information quickly.  First the bottom section.  That’s the ensemble “average”.  You clearly see the best chance for significant rain is centered right on Sunday.  Looks like every single ensemble member (each is a horizontal line above) shows a tenth of an inch or more.  Maybe 20% give PDX more than 0.50″.  Then there is good agreement on a dry spell Monday through at least Wednesday and likely into Thursday as well.  We’ll dry out a bit.  But some decent hints also that late next week and the following weekend could be showery.  Good meteorological stuff!


Enjoy the mainly dry weather Friday, I think there will just be a few light showers popping up late in the day…many of us stay dry.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

17 Responses to Fire Season 2018 Winds Down…A Lucky Year in NW Oregon & SW Washington

  1. Tracy Thomas says:

    Is the 7-day forecast on the new website from the meteorologists or is it computer-generated?

  2. Freezing level in the Seattle area is now down to 6400 feet, as reported by commercial jets. Lowest of the season so far. .40″ in the past 24 hours. Now getting cloudbreaks but expect some good, vigorous convective showers this afternoon.

  3. Ryan says:

    Hi Mark. Can you please clarify something about the new website. Is the 7 day forecast yours or is it now a generic computer generated forecast? In this format we can now see any additional comments you may put on the 7 day on the air, for example, snow levels in the winter. Also, why does the new website focus on the hourly forecast when you repeatedly tell us in posts how useless they are? Can’t stress how much I love the blog, been reading for years!

  4. Ken in Wood Village says:

    My brother tagged me on Facebook saying the NWS issued a special weather statement about the possibility of water spots and if they hit land they could become tornadoes. Very interesting 🤔

  5. Roland Derksen says:

    Cool, showery day here: Present temperature is 56F. It likely will be the coolest daily maximum for summer, so far.

    • Roland Derksen says:

      I didn’t expect the sky to clear yesterday afternoon, so within a couple of hours after my previous letter the temperature was noticeably warmer. Oh well, maybe today… 🙂

  6. Ken in Wood Village says:

    The website is still not right. I use my browser on my phone to get to the weather blog but when I click the link to get here the page is so big. I try to use my fingers to shrink the page but it won’t do anything. When will people learn not to do anything when it’s not broken. 🙄😒

    • Paul D says:

      Agreed! It was fine the way it was. The 7-day forecast is so plain and looks like something that is computer generated without any human intervention.

  7. Got 0.25″ overnight. Finally enough to give things a good wetting instead of just getting sucked up by the parched soil. Hoping for more.

  8. W7ENK says:

    Thanks for the update, Mark.

  9. Paul D says:

    I love the graphic that shows all those below normal temperatures!

  10. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    Glad it’s over. I’d love to go back to summers with minimal fire activity!

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