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Fire and Fire Risk in the Deschutes Basin

Wildfire is a natural ecological process, but decades of fire suppression along with changes in land use and climate have increased wildfire risk in many areas of Oregon, including much of the Deschutes Basin. Over 41 million acres in Oregon are susceptible. The state experiences large wildfires most years that threaten homes and a range of wildland values.

The suppression of fire in Oregon and Washington ecosystems over the past century has resulted in increased density of trees and shrubs, shifting forest composition to less fire-resilient species and increasing plants vulnerability to insects, disease, and invasive species. Particularly in Oregons dry, frequent-fire adapted forests, these altered conditions increase the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfires that can kill the vegetation above and below ground, sterilize soils, cause erosion and sedimentation and increase water temperatures, harming fish and other wildlife.

Recognizing the tenuous ecological situation of these forests, restoration ecologists, foresters, and others have developed ways to return historic ecological processes and lower tree densities to these forests. However, their efforts are not without challenges. Managers must work with a diversity of communities, organizations, and agencies, balance ecological and economic interests, and work to produce new technologies policy to advance conservation and restoration efforts. With time, the efforts of these managers may improve the health of Oregons forests.

Wildfires in Oregon can occur during any time of year, but nearly all burn between July and October. Fires ignited by lightning or humans are common in the dry forests and grasslands of central, southwestern and northeastern Oregon. The wildfire-prone areas in the Deschutes Basin include some of the state's fastest growing communities.