© 2023 KLCC

136 W 8th Ave
Eugene OR 97401

Contact Us

FCC Applications
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

It's only May, but wildfires are already heating up

A screenshot from a fire-detection camera shows a small plume of smoke rising above trees.
Oregon Department of Forestry
The Oregon Department of Forestry said a wildfire detection camera caught a nascent blaze about 40 miles south of Eugene on Monday.

It’s only mid-May, but wildfire season is already gearing up in Oregon, thanks in part to warmer weather and lightning strikes.

In fact, the Oregon Department of Forestry said lightning strikes were to blame for a small fire on Monday evening between Sharps Creek and Mosby, about forty miles south of Eugene. The blaze started around 5:30 p.m. and was quickly contained by 8 p.m. after burning about half an acre on private land.

The fire was detected remotely, using a camera designed to catch fires in their earliest stages using smoke-detecting software.

“Catching fires early helps us because then we don’t have to use as many people to put it out, which saves taxpayer dollars,” said Jessica Prakke, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The camera that detected the fire was installed last fall. It’s one of 93 cameras installed at more than sixty sites across the state. The Oregon Department of Forestry received funding for the project from Senate Bill 762, which passed in 2021, for wildfire prevention measures including installing these cameras.

“It is a much more efficient and effective way of catching wildfires early,” said Prakke. ”We can put a couple of cameras on one mountain and it could get a 360 view of hundreds of miles of rural forestland.”

Here in Oregon, wildfire season usually begins in mid-May and ends in late September. Snowpack levels in the mountains and drought affect how long and how severe the fire season is.

Oregonians can help prevent fires on public and private lands during the coming months. The Department of Forestry advises practicing fire safety when burning yard debris and using campfires, as well as avoiding parking on dry grass and making sure cars have no faulty parts that could create sparks.

Chrissy Ewald is a freelance reporter for KLCC. She first reported for KLCC as the 2023 Snowden Intern.
Related Content