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Researcher: Get used to wildfires; they're getting worse

Kathie Dello with the Oregon State Climate Change Research Institute said wildfires are starting earlier, burning hotter and happening in unusual places.

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 8:23 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Wildfire conditions are going to get worse over the next few decades, according to a climate change researcher with Oregon State University.

Kathie Dello with the Oregon State Climate Change Research Institute said wildfires are starting earlier, burning hotter and happening in unusual places such as last year's Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

Dello said in the Pacific Northwest, we usually see a storm or two during the summer that helps with dry conditions, but we have yet to see that this summer.

She said the hot, dry summers are part of climate change and are the perfect catalysts for wildfires.

"Our summers have gotten hotter and dryer," Dello said. "Last summer was our second hottest on record, and our hottest on record was 2015, so these are piling up."

Climate change models predict more hot summers in the years to come, she said.

She also said we're seeing these wildfires come closer to populated areas such as Redding, California.

She said it underscores the fact that we need to prepare for these worsening conditions over the next few decades.

To do that, she suggests cutting greenhouse gas emissions, making your home fire safe and clearing the area around it for defensible space.

An increased risk for wildfires is due to rising temperatures and drought conditions, Dello said.

According to a study published by the National Academy of Science, the way you manage your land in a specific area can actually counteract those increased risks.

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