Slow Start To Fire Season 2019

June 20, 2019

9pm Thursday…

Have you noticed one thing is missing so far this season?  Hardly any talk of fires or smoke in the air.  That’s because fire activity UP TO THIS POINT has been lower than any year since at least 2009 here in the USA.  Check out acreage burned so far across the entire country.

Fire USA Summer Stats

That’s only a quarter of the acreage burned compared to this date in the previous 3 seasons.  Most likely that’s due to a late/cold spring from the Rockies westward into California.  Temperature departure the past 30 days


and of course the very late wet conditions everywhere south and east of Oregon have put off the beginning of fire season


Only western Oregon and Washington have been drier than normal late spring and very early this summer.  You can see that in the “1,000 hr fuel moisture” for the western slopes of the northern Oregon Cascades.  The black line is this year, light gray is average, and red is record driest.  We’re tracking near to a little drier than average for those larger fuels in this part of the forest.


What we haven’t seen yet is any sort of warm/hot weather lined up with dry lightning.  That’s what gets the big fires going.  No sign of that through the rest of June as we are now in a cooler and wetter than normal pattern.  I would expect fuels to be wetter by the time we get to July 1st.

Now I remember many years where it’s all quiet through mid-July and then all hell breaks loose with one lightning outbreak in late July or early August.  So obviously a slow early season doesn’t mean much for later this summer.   We had another relatively light year for lightning, nothing like the crazy 2012-2016 summers!  Chart from USFS


You probably remember the “perfect storm” for August & early September smoke the past two summers?  Big BC fires, big and persistent SW Oregon fires, and then of course the close-by Eagle Creek fire in 2017.  It’s unlikely we’ll see that convergence of fire smoke again this year unless we get another scorching hot summer plus a ramp-up of lightning action compared to last year.  We’ll see.

At this point it appears we’ll see some sort of warm up beginning somewhere around July 1st.  Models say the upper-level troughing goes away about that time.   So enjoy the cool late June weather (not my tomatoes) and cross those fingers for a slow fire season and not much smoke!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen