If you drive into the forest, you’re likely to encounter a fire danger sign somewhere along your route. The signs display critical information in different areas about wildfire risk, especially during the summer months.
The scale ranges from low to extreme. It can update multiple times per day if required by ever-changing conditions.
“It’s a group of interagency partners of Forest Service, BLM, ODF, and we’ve developed a Central Oregon Fire Danger Operating plan based on over 30 years of weather and fire data,” Oregon Department of Forestry’s Ben Duda said.
Duda is a crucial part of the large operation that determines danger levels. He helps ensure that response resources are ready in the case of an event.
“Yeah, when we’re in extreme. Everyone wants all the resources,” he said.
Smokey’s Arm dictates Duda’s day-to-day operations. Based on weather conditions, he moves personnel around to susceptible areas.
“Then becomes a resource allocation prioritization exercise between all the agencies of where we’re moving things and staging resources and how we’re actually responding to each incident,” Duda said.
Fire danger levels are determined by several factors including weather, fuel moisture and topography. Determining an up-to-date rating in Central Oregon requires the collaboration of dozens of individuals across different agencies.
Once the process determines risk levels, Smokeys across different regions point to the scale.
“As you drive around Central Oregon, you may see Smokey’s arm in different places, and that’s because we have divided the area into fire danger rating areas,” he said.
Duda says there’s many resources which ensure up-to-date risk information for the public. And he believes that data goes a long way toward saving lives.
“Being more aware of your surroundings and the current fuel conditions is critical to prevent wildfires, to prove to save lives, property, wildlife and our forests in Central Oregon,” he said.