Could wildfire season come earlier? What 2017's fire season tells us

The wildfire season in 2017 lasted three weeks longer than normal. That gives experts clues to the future.

The 2017 wildfire season in Washington and Oregon won’t be remembered for a record number of acres burned, there were plenty, but instead it’s more evidence for what we will face in the future.

2017’s fire season will be known for how long it lasted, nearly three weeks longer than the last record season in 2015, a season that lasted well into the fall.

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According to the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture, there was a record set; the record was the 40 days that wildland firefighters had to remain at a level 5, the highest level of preparedness, as much of the region experienced hair trigger fire conditions. They were busy. Then when the season was over up in the northwest, many firefighters went down into California fighting fires there through the holidays.

Climate change, declining forest health, the buildup of brush, small trees and other debris on the forest floor. With growing frequencies, these issues have been cited for decades. They account not only the number of fires, but the intensity of fires when they get going. Trees that have lived for centuries through lower intensity natural fires, have since the 1990s, succumbed to the massive blazes of later decades.

In Washington, 2014 and 2015 saw back to back record fire seasons, eclipsing the Yacolt burn, which stood for over a century. But 2017’s season was actually longer than 2015 by weeks.

This week, USFS Region 6, which includes Washington and Oregon released an interactive report on the 2017 season, how it came about and lessons learned that can be applied to 2018, and seasons yet to come.

Chetco Bar Fire Progression Map

Eagle Creek Fire Progression Map