Lightning Starts Small Fires

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NEAR RUCH, Ore. — Early morning lightning and reports of smoke had the Oregon Department of Forestry teaming up with a few agencies to chase down smoke and put out fires.

Thick grass, steep slopes and rocky terrain greeted fire crews as they worked on putting out a small fire.

“The biggest thing is just the safety aspect of all this loose rock and boulders so you have to be really careful if there’s anyone down below you. If you kick a rock loose you’ve got to let them know, and just try not to be below people in general,” said O.D.F. Incident Commander Herb Johnson.

Around 8 a.m, lightning struck a tree high above southern Oregon near the launch point for hang gliders on Woodrat Mountain.

“This tree that we’re looking at is the strike tree, I had to cut it down, because you see that black spot right there, it was on fire and there’s no way to put it out without putting it on the ground,” said Johnson.

Attacking and ultimately containing this fire to about 800 square feet was an effort of the multiple agencies.  Applegate Fire was the first on scene, but O.D.F. crews soon followed.

“When it’s earlier in the day before the fire engines  come on we have after hours phone numbers  where we can get ahold of our crews and our  engines and we call them in as need be,” said Greg Alexander with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Eyes in the sky also helped crews on the ground determine if other calls of smoke were false alarms, or growing forest fires.

“They came up after the fires were found, but they  were able to rule out some fires that we thought  were going but just ended up being drift smoke, so that was helpful as well,” said Johnson.