Firefighters responding to over 2,000 lightning strikes
Firefighters are responding to several dozen small fires across the Willamette National Forest. Thunderstorms that occurred over the past two days produced over 2,000 lightning strikes. Although not all strikes produce fires, today’s thunderstorms will continue to produce additional strikes. And even though rain has accompanied some of the strikes, it is not always enough rain to put out all of the new fires. Most of the fires are small, from single trees up to an acre in size.
The McKenzie River Ranger District and Middle Fork Ranger District received the bulk of the lightning, but lightning also sparked several new fires on the Detroit and Sweet Home Ranger Districts in the Whitewater Creek and Gordon Meadows areas respectively. Most of the fires on the McKenzie River Ranger District were reported in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Smokejumpers, rappellers and helicopters are being used to suppress these fires while caring for wilderness values and protecting firefighters from hazards.
Firefighters are currently responding to eight new fires on the Middle Fork Ranger District. One of these fires is located on a ridge north of Oakridge and is producing a column of smoke that is visible from town.
Fire managers expect more fires to emerge as a result of lightning over the upcoming days and possibly weeks. Aerial detection from helicopters helps fire managers in locating new starts. Crews are also out looking for new starts and are prepared to suppress them if conditions are safe.
“Our fire season is just beginning and we have a lot of summer left in front of us, so our strategy is to prioritize and suppress fires that we find in such a way that we reduce the risks to our firefighters and the public. So far, we are managing to keep up with the number of fires we have had with these storms,” said Meg Mitchell, Forest Supervisor for the Willamette National Forest. “We also stay in close touch with ODF who is suppressing fires on private lands that they protect in these areas, so we are all talking, sharing information and resources.”
There are currently no fire-related closures for the public or restrictions on campfires in the Willamette National Forest. “We just ask for everyone’s cooperation to watch their campfires closely and apply plenty of water until it’s completely out before they leave their campsite. Our air is pretty clean right now, and we want to keep It that way,” said Mitchell. Forest visitors are asked to report any smokes.
For additional information, please call the nearest Ranger District (McKenzie District # is 541-822-3381). Fire updates will also be posted on the Willamette National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/willamette
McKenzie River Reflections