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Wildfire Season Starts Early And With A Vengeance

Fires have scorched thousands of acres of ranchland in southeast Oregon.
Brooke Nyman
/
Oregon Cattleman's Association
Fires have scorched thousands of acres of ranchland in southeast Oregon.

So far, more than 150 homes in Washington state have been destroyed in what veteran firefighters are calling the worst fire season in decades. 

Fires have scorched thousands of acres of ranchland in southeast Oregon.
Credit Brooke Nyman / Oregon Cattleman's Association
/
Oregon Cattleman's Association
Fires have scorched thousands of acres of ranchland in southeast Oregon.

In neighboring Oregon, firefighters are stretched thin by more than a dozen blazes burning at once.

Veteran firefighter Al Lawson came to a community meeting in central Washington to meet with residents displaced by the raging Carlton Complex Fire. It's among the largest wildfires in the state's recorded history.

"In my 30 years, I've never seen fire behavior like this," he said. "Nothing to compare."

Governor Jay Inslee toured the devastation over the weekend. He called it an unprecedented firestorm.

"Our state is stretched beyond imagination," he said.

Inslee says the fact that it's only mid-July is an ominous sign.

"Typically the fire season doesn't really get going until August," he said. "So we have at least two more months in the fire season and we have already burned twice as many acres as the average."

Oregon has been spared the same level of devastation in terms of lost property. But the Oregon Department of Forestry says so far the sheer number of acres burned this summer is seven times more than a typical fire season.

On a more positive note, the agency's Cynthia Orlando says cooler weather for the next few days could help slow things down.

"We're getting a lit bit of a respite but you know, everybody's on alert here," Orlando said.

Temperatures are expected to soar back into the 90s by the end of the week.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.