PORTLAND -- Fire season appears to be starting early this year. Local firefighters are concerned about conditions that are far drier than they should be for this time of year.

Small wildfires broke out over the past week in rural Oregon and Washington. Most were sparked by burn piles. Fire officials across Washington and Oregon are closely monitoring fire conditions and may have to close the burn season early this year.

They're calling for 80 degree temperatures so we're getting it done, said Jamie Anderson of Yacolt.

He's burning branches from 12 Alder trees he just cut down. There's a rush to clear rural properties and burn off debris while it's still safe, but is it?

It's very early to be talking about wildfires, said Gordon Brooks a Battalion Chief with Clark County Fire District 10. We actually had a wildfire Thursday that spread into some timber from a burn pile.

Volunteer firefighters were able to stop it, but say it's far to early to see wildfires.

We didn't have anything happen until august last year, said Brooks.

The early dry conditions have rural firefighters around the region already planning for what's expected to be a busy season. Volunteer firefighters at district 10 spent Saturday in the classroom studying firefighting strategies. They're also closely watching fire conditions and forecasts.

If a big fire breaks out early east of the mountains, they will likely travel there to help, leaving our area more vulnerable.

I think we're going to have a very busy year, both locally and statewide and that affects the resources right here if we have to go somewhere else, said Brooks.

With more and more housing developments in forested areas, the potential for disaster grows each year. Many homes now sit directly in the footprint of the historic 1902 Yacolt burn which destroyed 239,000 acres in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties and 65 people died.

Eighty percent of all fires are human caused. Jamie Anderson knows that, which is why he's being extra careful to get his burning done early this year.

Getting it done before it gets way to hot and way to dry, said Anderson.

All the small wildfires fires this week were connected to burn piles. Fire officials say it's important to create a barrier of dirt around the piles. They say when grass drys out, it can carry flames faster than you can run.

Read or Share this story: