Salem Radio Network News Wednesday, August 4, 2021


Extreme heat scalds Christmas tree crops in Oregon

By Deborah Bloom

OREGON CITY, Ore. (Reuters) – The destruction wrought by the extreme heat and wildfires raging across Oregon includes all kinds of farms – including one that grows trees for the Christmas season.

Jacob Hemphill, owner of Hemphill Tree Farm, estimates that he has lost over $100,000 worth of Christmas trees as a result of the recent ‘heat dome’ event, which saw temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 °C) in some parts of the Portland metro area.

“The second day of the heat, it was 116. I came in the driveway that night and seen the trees were basically cooking. Burnt down to nothing,” Hemphill said.

The losses will take a toll on his family this year, he said. But he has hope things will improve next year.

“I mean, you just kind of got to roll with the punches, and replant next year… and hopefully make up for the loss that we’re gonna have in the future.”

Beyond Christmas trees, Reuters spoke to several farmers across the Willamette Valley who said the heat wave earlier this year damaged their crops to unprecedented levels.

The so-called Bootleg fire has blackened nearly 400,000 acres (over 160,000 hectares) of desiccated brush and timber in and around the Fremont-Winema National Forest since erupting July 6. That makes it close to Oregon’s third largest on record since 1900.

At least 67 homes have been destroyed and another 3,400 were listed as threatened, with an estimated 2,100 people under orders to evacuate or be ready to flee at a moment’s notice.

Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat that are symptomatic of climate change.

(Reporting by Deborah Bloom; editing by Diane Craft)


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