Lightning-Caused Fires Stretch Crews Thin

, Posted: Mon, May 6 2013 at 6:13 PM, Updated: Mon, May 6 2013 at 6:35 PM

Wildfires are burning all across Oregon and sending firefighters scrambling as resources are diverted.

The weekend's dry, sunny weather combined with thunderstorms and lightning have made fire crews busy in Southern Oregon.

From dusk until dawn, fire crews with the Oregon Department of Forestry have been busy in the Elk Creek area fighting five fires believed to be caused by lightning.

"The biggest in there is over by Yellow Rock. It's 5-6 acres in size," said Brian Ballou with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Ballou said the trouble with lightning-caused fires is that they're hard to find and difficult to access.

In fact, at the Elk Mountain fire crews marked the way with yellow and black tape, went through brush and crossed a creek...then came the hard part. Crews had to find exactly where the fires were located somewhere in a heavily wooded area.

A continuing concern are the thunderstorms scattered across our area. If more fires start resources will be limited.

"It's a little thin right now because there's fires up in Douglas County, Lane County and Central Oregon," said Ballou.

Add to that, about a half-dozen small fires in Josephine County and two others in the Wagner Creek and Anderson Butte area.

"The available firefighter pool isn't very deep right now."

The good thing? Ballou said the fires so far have been manageable.

"The woods just aren't ready to burn aggressively yet," he said.

But even while trees are holding on to some of their moisture, he said conditions are still dangerously dry.

"In terms of dryness we're way ahead of schedule this year."

That's why he's hoping there's less lightning and more rain.

Meantime, Ballou said a contracted ODF helicopter has spotted more small fires that may need attention in the Applegate area.   

Most of the small Elk Creek fires have been contained.

However, it may take until Tuesday to contain the larger blaze.

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