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Southern Oregon forestry officials prepare for lightning-sparked fires

A lightning-caused wildfire burns in Alberta, Canada. Credit: The Government of Alberta (via NASA.gov)

Thunderstorms are in the forecast this week, and officials at multiple agencies in the region are getting ready to confront any fires caused by lightning strikes.

Posted: Jun 21, 2021 4:24 PM
Updated: Jun 21, 2021 6:13 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Thunderstorms are in the forecast this week, and forestry officials across southern Oregon are bracing for the potential of lightning-sparked fires and winds that could become the catalyst for spread amid unseasonably dry conditions.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said that it's ready for an aggressive initial attack on any new wildfire starts.

“We have a phased approach in place for predicted events that we’ll use to ensure adequate staffing. Our forest is ready to host those assets whether that be at the ranger district level, or in a centralized hub at the staging area for forest-wide distribution. Our intent is for quick detection, aggressive initial attack and efficient use of the resources we have,” said Acting Fire Staff Officer Dan Quinones.

Resources on hand include 16 engines, a Type 3 dozer, two 10-person crews, a Type 1 water tender, air attack and fixed-wing recon platforms, staffed lookouts, and support from the Rogue Valley Interagency Communications Center and the Medford Air Tanker Base.

If any of the fires get beyond initial attack, RRSNF said that J. Herbert Stone Nursery is prepared to serve as a staging area for reinforcements. Smokejumpers, single-engine air tankers, and large airtankers are available to be brought in from central Oregon.

According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, the central Oregon location is no coincidence. The state has been staging resources here so that they are prepared to head wherever the fires are worst.

“We know the conditions across the state are dry, and with thunderstorms in the forecast, even the smallest spark could trigger a wildfire, that is why we are prepositioning these resources,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said. “We can’t control the weather, but we can plan for what we can control, and that is strategically placing resources ahead of this weather event.”

The threat of thunderstorms is especially high east of the Cascades and into Klamath County, where firefighters were already battling the Cutoff Fire and now the Pool Fire.

StormWatch 12's forecast on Monday predicts that these storms will materialize in the afternoon and evening, particularly in northern Klamath County. Moreover, some of the early lightning events may come without precipitation, increasing the risk of fire starts in the extremely dry condition.

During the summer of 2018, thousands of lightning strikes from a dry storm sparked more than 100 separate fires across the region. Some of those fires grew to cover tens or hundreds of thousands of acres in Josephine and Jackson counties.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 218689

Reported Deaths: 2855
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah41723618
Washington27764258
Marion24459332
Clackamas19888241
Lane14804174
Jackson12522155
Deschutes1052887
Umatilla950594
Linn624882
Yamhill506281
Klamath494179
Douglas446188
Polk429357
Josephine413675
Malheur366467
Benton345322
Jefferson249342
Coos230439
Columbia208132
Union167124
Wasco154631
Lincoln153522
Crook139224
Hood River125934
Morrow122317
Clatsop116310
Baker109317
Curry77912
Tillamook7495
Grant5627
Lake4878
Harney45811
Wallowa2286
Gilliam871
Sherman862
Wheeler421
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3944933

Reported Deaths: 64386
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles129358324677
Riverside3079224659
San Bernardino3062735236
San Diego2950543798
Orange2817905143
Santa Clara1230832099
Sacramento1152001777
Kern1130711425
Fresno1044581746
Alameda958261282
Ventura835231043
San Joaquin769151460
Contra Costa75842832
Stanislaus657091091
Tulare50363854
Monterey44484528
San Mateo44477588
San Francisco40144561
Solano35703262
Santa Barbara35647467
Merced32961484
Sonoma32665330
Imperial29096745
Placer25146307
Kings23611250
San Luis Obispo21970265
Madera17024249
Santa Cruz16616207
Marin14825239
Yolo14801215
Butte13184205
Shasta12963242
El Dorado11063120
Napa1042082
Sutter10159126
Yuba698551
San Benito627463
Lassen588127
Tehama586466
Nevada535075
Humboldt504553
Mendocino468351
Tuolumne449573
Lake423865
Amador387048
Siskiyou256140
Glenn246427
Colusa235718
Calaveras230758
Del Norte16438
Inyo145338
Mono13255
Plumas7656
Modoc5737
Mariposa4987
Trinity4626
Sierra1290
Alpine890
Unassigned510
Medford
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 95° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 89°
Brookings
Clear
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Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 72° Lo: 53°
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Grants Pass
Clear
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Hi: 100° Lo: 67°
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Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
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More rain and thunderstorms possible Saturday
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