Lightning Starts Numerous Fires on ODF Protection in Central Oregon District

[Prineville, Ore.] Thunderstorms swept through the Central Oregon District Tuesday, igniting fifteen fires on Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) protection with the largest fire being ¼ acre.  Significant rainfall accompanied these storms helping to reduce fire behavior.  Additional fire detections from these storms are anticipated as vegetation and fuels dry with warmer, seasonable temperatures and increasing winds.  These holdover fires can creep around smoldering in wet fuels and vegetation for days or weeks until conditions are right for them to spread rapidly. 

The Central Oregon District is using a variety of methods across the landscape to detect fires at a small size.  Reconnaissance flights with observers are being used across the district with federal partners as well as the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office today looking for fire and smoke from new wildfire starts.  Last night ODF used their multi-mission platform equipped with infra-red and thermal detection capabilities to fly portions of the district.  They turned in twenty detections across the flight area and will be back in the air tonight if conditions cooperate.  Typical detection methods are also being used, such as manned fire lookout towers and firefighters scouting with maps of the lightning locations.  In some areas detection cameras are being used to find new fires and gather intel for responding firefighters.

“Yesterday’s lightning storms were impressive and had me concerned,” said Rob Pentzer, District Forester for the Central Oregon District.  “But our firefighters along with our landowners and partners put in great effort to keep these fires small.  And because of that we’re in good shape today as we continue to respond to new fires.”  Early August is often considered the peak of fire season in Oregon, with cured wildland fuels, hot temperatures, and lightning.  This round of thunderstorms will continue to push firefighters, but so far this year their hard work has resulted in successfully reducing impacts from wildland fires to natural resources, public health, landowners, and communities in the Central Oregon District.  Year-to-date there have been 19 lightning fires on ODF protection in the district, burning 108 acres and 25 human starts, burning 23 acres.  The ten-year average for lightning fires is 41 fires, burning 2,646 acres and 49 human caused fires burning 2,082 acres.

Firefighters across the District have been engaged in long hours of arduous work to keep these fires small.  A strike team of five engines from ODF districts in northwest Oregon arrived in Prineville today to provide additional capacity for initial attack resources on new starts.  ODF resources will continue to patrol looking for new starts and working with partner agencies to secure fires on the landscape. 

For additional information on ODF’s Central Oregon District, including contact information and unit offices, please visit