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Looking for Lightning on Soda Mountain

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SODA MOUNTAIN, Ore. — Lightning strikes are one of the most common causes for wildfires during fire season and it takes strong communication between the Oregon Department of Forestry’s dispatch center and their fire lookouts to spot potential fires.

High above the Rogue Valley is a small outpost where a person mans the lookout station at Soda Mountain, one of several in Southern Oregon. Lookouts say it takes strong knowledge of both geography and weather patterns to predict where lightning may strike. They say there are telltale signs that a ground strike could happen.

“Towers of clouds with darkened bases, rumbling with flashes, then we’re really watching out for a ground strike,” said ODF Fire Lookout Laura Glasscock.

The dispatch center relays information from radar and maps that show lightning strikes to the lookouts so they can spot any potential smoke or flames quickly.