Northwest leads nation in wildfires in 2014

AP News
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Posted: Sep 25, 2014 6:59 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Northwest has led the nation in wildfires so far this year.

Citing federal statistics, The Oregonian reports (http://bit.ly/1usIoxK) Thursday that the number of wildfires in Oregon and Washington is down — 3,270 — but the area burned is more than any other region of the country — a total of nearly 1.3 million acres, which is about 2,000 square miles.

That's fewer than the 10-year average of 3,877 fires, but nearly triple the 10-year average of 452,039 acres, about 700 square miles.

Nationwide, the 40,115 fires burning 3,027,795 acres was well off the 10-year pace of 59,689 fires and 6,639,145 acres.

Mike Ferris of the National Interagency Fire Center says that while much of the nation saw weather that was wetter and cooler than normal, Oregon was in the second year of drought, and both states saw frequent lightning storms, particularly east of the Cascades.

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center spokeswoman Carol Connolly says the region set a record with 43 days as the nation's top firefighting priority, with 12,000 people fighting fires in the two states during one week in July.

"It was a challenging, complex year," she said. "Juggling all the moving parts of crews and equipment made the year stand out — and it will stand out for years."

The total cost so far is $446 million - nearly twice the $235 million spent last year, according to the coordination center.

Washington's biggest fire in history was the Carlton Complex, which burned more than 300 homes and 256,108 acres. In Oregon, the biggest fire was the Buzzard Complex, which burned 395,747 acres in southeastern Oregon rangeland.

Rain across the region will make it difficult for any more large fires to get going this year, Ferris said.

But fire season is not yet over. Another extended stretch of dry weather is predicted.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com