Fire, ODF, Weather

High winds beginning early afternoon on Monday drive fire danger up

The Oregon Department of Forestry stages a vehicle at the Gales Creek Fire Station on Tuesday, August 27 2019. Photo: Chas Hundley

The Oregon Department of Forestry moved fire danger in the region from “High” to “Extreme” on Monday morning, bumped Industrial Fire Precaution Levels to 3 for the entire Tillamook Forest and surrounding region, closed gates on certain forest roads along Highway 6 and 26, and have asked outdoor enthusiasts to vacate the forests and stay away as concern mounts over dry east winds expected to punch into the region Monday evening. A Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 8 p.m. Wednesday. 

More information on fire restrictions, as well as detailed real time maps, can be found here.

A High Wind Warning issued by the Portland branch of the National Weather Service goes into effect at 5 p.m. Monday and extends through 1 p.m. Tuesday, September 8. According to the NWS, much of the northwest corner of Oregon and southwest corner of Washington, stretching from Mt. Hood to the Coast, including the Coast Range, all of Washington, Tillamook, Clatsop and most of Columbia Counties, and more areas could see winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 50 to 60 mph expected, enough to down limbs, topple trees, take down power poles, and rapidly spread wildfires. 

“The weather pattern of dry heat combined with what is shaping up to be an historic east wind event with gusts upward of 40 miles per hour are creating conditions in our coastal forests that are exactly the same conditions that were in place when the Eagle Creek Fire exploded in the Columbia River Gorge during the Labor Day weekend of 2017,” said ODF Forest Grove District Forester Mike Cafferata in a post to the Tillamook State Forest blog. “We are asking folks to stay home to help prevent another ‘Tillamook Burn’ from occurring,” he said. 

It wasn’t the only comparison to the Tillamook Burn that Cafferata drew between current and expected weather patterns; in an email to the Gales Creek Journal, Cafferata shared weather data from the original 1933 fire that torched a significant portion of what is now the Tillamook State Forest and noted that it was similar to this week’s conditions.

According to Cafferata, ODF crews responded to at least one illegal burn on Sunday night in the Tillamook Forest. 

Weather is forecast in the area to remain in the 80’s and 90’s for at least another week.  

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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