Slow Start To Fire Season 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



11 Responses to Slow Start To Fire Season 2019

  1. Tanis Leach says:

    Is anyone else seeing a chance for T-storms on Tuesday to Thursday and heightened chance on Thursday?

  2. Kyle says:

    What’s the year we had a cloudy and warm July? It was sometime between 2008 and 2012.

    • Roland Derksen says:

      Cloudy AND warm? Those two words usually don’t go together in July. Nevertheless, my guess is either 2011 or 2012.

  3. Larry says:

    I’m not sure if its just me or if this is a local problem, but I
    ve been seeing a TON of mosquitoes whenever I go outside for a walk, yard work, etc. Usually my house is fairly mosquito free, (bats living in a old shed) but despite this; lots of mosquitoes are buzzing around (and biting me, aghh!). We also we have very few open water sources so I don’t think its coming from my house.

    • Kyle says:

      Don’t mosquito’s like hot and humid weather? The one year 2014 or 2015 when we had constant stretches of lows not going below 60F they where EVERYWHERE with bugs we usually don’t get.

      It felt like the deep south that summer minus the heavy picnic ruining downpours and lightning.

  4. Roland Derksen says:

    The cool start to the summer season is nice- but we need some rain soon. I’ve got 0.26 inches for June so far. If we don’t get at least 0.18 inches more , it will be my driest June on record.

    • Kyle says:

      JUNE? I’d say it will be the driest spring on record! Forget June! Couple that with last years dryness. Global Warming is actually real and we are in it for the next 100 years.

      However the clicher is the sun is in deep minimum.

      • Roland Derksen says:

        I was only referring to the month of June. Actually, when it comes to the first 6 months of the year, this isn’t my driest first half. 1985 had less precipitation for my place.. The difference is that we’re quiet a bit warmer than 1985, and warmer temperatures mean more evaporation, hence drier conditions.

  5. PAUL D says:

    Hopefully we set a record this year for the least amount of fires in Oregon!

  6. boydo3 says:

    Funny, I previously commented about the fires in Alaska on Mark’s previous post. Yes, there are fires up in the North.
    And so while we may be doing OK down here right now, things are getting toasty in Alaska.
    I think if you look at the fire season in historical terms, it never really got going till late summer/early fall so this talk about a slow start is a relatively new thing. After all, summer never really used to begin before July 5th! 😉

  7. Larry says:

    I remember the smoke back in 2017. It made it very difficult to do anything outdoors. Also made the sun very hazy. Overall, I’m enjoying the slow start to the fire season. The rain is especially needed down south, where wildfires are already starting to pop up. Lets hope that this cool, wet pattern will continue for the NW and SW regions.

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