The tri-county area (Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties) of Central Oregon received over 1,000 lightning strikes in the past 48 hours. Over 100 fires were reported to the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center today, with more coming in every hour. Most of the fires are staffed with firefighters and fires are reported at less than a quarter acre in size. Firefighters continue to work their way in to some of the more remote fires and are working to locate some of the reported fires.
The Doghouse Gulch Fire located near the South Fork of the John Day River drainage was the largest of the fires reported today, currently estimated at 16 acres. Single Engine Air Tankers and helicopters are being used to slow the fire, allowing ground resources to engage directly. Smoke jumpers are working a cluster of fires near Cultus Lake, all of which are estimated to be less than a quarter of an acre or single tree fires. They will continue to build fireline and mop-up these incidents until the work is completed.
As vegetation dries out over the next few days and seasonable warm weather returns additional holdover fires are expected. These fires are initially dampened by the rain that comes with the thunderstorms and creep around smoldering until growing large enough to be detected. To reduce the potential of these fires becoming large fires before they are reported daily flights will be conducted with observers looking for smoke and fires. In addition to these “recon” flights thermal and infrared technology will be used at night as conditions allow to detect heat and fire from specialty detection aircraft.
Early detection of wildfires results in less damage to natural resources, less smoke impacts to public health, and less damage to personal property and life. In Central Oregon the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests, Crooked River National Grassland, Bureau of Land Management—Prineville District, and Oregon Department of Forestry work cooperatively to detect and respond to wildfires across the landscape. Manned lookouts, smoke detection cameras, thermal/infrared technology, and recon flights are all used to detect fires at the smallest possible size. Additionally, firefighters use maps of lightning strikes to patrol and look for fires. This coordinated response of resources and detection assets allows firefighters to focus on fire suppression activities across all ownerships.