Wildfires in Oregon: Why Are They So Hard to Extinguish?


(Image via USA Today)

Tabitha Fitzgerald, Writer

Each year we end up battling wildfires, but why was this season particularly awful, and what are the fires looking like now? There are no easy answers, as there are many factors that contributed to the scale of the wildfires, and to why they are so hard to put out.

This year, a perfect storm of the least ideal of conditions created one of the worst fire seasons Oregon has seen. Extremely hot, dry, and windy weather caused downed power lines to ignite, which spread rapidly to dried out trees and plants. Shifting winds caused the wildfires to go in multiple directions causing widespread panic, destruction, and evacuation orders. These wildfires were especially tricky to fight due to their sheer speed and size. For reference, wildfires can travel up to about 14.3 miles per hour, and when wildfires mix with wind at that speed, it can take a lot of volunteers and resources to put them out. Large wildfires also sometimes spark new wildfires when their glowing embers ignite dry grass. For more information on how wildfires can spread, read How Wildfires Work by How Stuff Works. 

Once the wildfires began to spread, evacuation orders started to be issued across the state. Suddenly, people in both towns and rural areas were being ordered to leave immediately. When people were forced to evacuate their homes without warning, they may not have had a place to go. As a result, the Red Cross and other organizations began to set up relief shelters for both people and animals, such as Neil Armstrong Middle School and the Washington County Fairgrounds. This was especially challenging, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. So, in order to keep everyone safe, more space, resources, and volunteers were needed, putting further strain on putting out the wildfires. As the fight continues, there are ways that you can help. One way to help is by donating to The Red Cross. Your donation would help to provide food, shelter, and more to those in need. However, if you are not able to donate,  The Red Cross is always welcoming volunteers to deliver supplies, manage online resources, and more. However, the main thing you can do to prevent wildfires is practicing fire safety. This may seem obvious, but practicing fire safety is the one thing we can all do to reduce devastating fires. Keep grass watered, fire pits away from anything flammable, put out campfires, and keep a bucket of water on hand when making one. Using fire responsibly is most likely the easiest way to prevent devastating wildfires

As of right now, the smoke has left the skies, the weather has cooled down, and evacuation orders around the state are being lifted. The situation is improving. Plus, there are hundreds of firefighters on the front lines actively working to save homes, forests, and lives. As each day goes by, more wildfires are contained, and more people allowed to return home. Remember to stay updated on wildfires and evacuation orders in your area. Stay safe, and remember that our situation will improve.