ODF gears up for more potential lightning-caused fires

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has eyes everywhere in Jackson and Josephine counties. Four people sit in its lightning detection center looking for smoke on multiple computer monitors.

Posted: Aug 8, 2019 11:21 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2019 11:26 PM

CENTRAL POINT, Ore.-- The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has eyes everywhere in Jackson and Josephine counties. Four people sit in its lightning detection center looking for smoke on multiple computer monitors. They spend the day constantly scanning all 22 of the cameras on its 11 detection sites in two counties.

"Those camera's sole purpose in life is to find smokes as small as we can find them," said Lead Dectection Dispatcher Chris James.

Staff is constantly checking the weather, looking for lightning strikes and listening to different scanners for any fires so they can find them as soon as they are discoverable.

"It's important to find the fires small. The faster that we can detect them, the faster we can get resources out to those fires," James added.

On July 15th, 2019, James said lightning sparked almost 100 fires. He hopes Friday's lightning event doesn't start nearly as many but when the lightning comes, they'll be ready.

"The function of this detection center is to literally find them as small as possible so that we can get on them," James added. "It's safer for the firefighters if we attack them small. It doesn't cost as much. It doesn't create as much smoke if we can put them out quickly."

ODF said you can help crews by preventing any human-caused wildfires from starting. That way, firefighters will be able to focus on putting any of the lightning caused fires out.

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