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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: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4810222

Reported Deaths: 70598
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147569426398
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3636444159
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871372
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
Out of CA00
Medford
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Brookings
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Crater Lake
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Staying dry and sunny today, rain and mountain snow arrives Sunday
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