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Wildfires down across state in 2016

SALEM — Oregon enjoyed one of the least damaging forest fire seasons of the past decade, despite dry and warm conditions.

The Statesman Journal reports wildfires torched 186,317 acres in Oregon this year, the lowest total since 2010 and well below the 10-year average, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center.

"We've seen significantly less fire activity than last year," said Jessica Gardetto, spokeswoman for the interagency fire center.

Forest fires are down nationwide as well, with 4.9 million acres burned, compared to last year's record-setting 10 million acres blackened.

People caused 910 fires and burned 126,409 acres this season, down from 1,397 fires and 139,483 acres burned in 2015.

There is still the chance of fires popping up during October. However, no large wildfires are active in Oregon and most fire restrictions have been lifted after cool and wet conditions on the state's west side.

Officials said a major reason for the overall improvement was the lack of dry lightning strikes this summer, officials said.

"The number of days where we had thunderstorms or dry lightning events was low compared to a normal year," said Matthew Cullen, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland. "In a typical year, we have a lot more outbreaks."

Conditions also improved this summer, compared to 2015 and 2014.

Snowpack this winter was far better than in 2015 and '14. However, a hot and dry spring — along with the Willamette Valley's fifth-warmest summer in recorded history — kept the state abnormally dry or in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

"Even if the snowpack was just decent, it at least delayed fire season more than during the past few years, especially in the higher mountains," Gardetto said.