Fire agencies gear up for potential lightning, excessive heat

MEDFORD, Ore – In preparation for the heat and potential lightning in the forecast, fire agencies in southern Oregon are bringing in extra help.

So far fire season has started off slow, but with no rain in the forecast, firefighters are preparing for the worst.

“We hope we aren’t going to pick up fires, but we just can’t take the chances,” Rob Budge, Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest, said.

The US Forest Service has received nearly a quarter million dollars in federal severity funding to up its preparedness.

“Currently we have placed orders for a significant number of additional resources to get us through this lightning bust,” Budge said.

The money will allow the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest to add more engines, and bring in multiple hot shot crews and an extra helicopter if needed. They will have roughly 250 firefighters on hand.

“We just have to be really careful. You know, aircraft, the performance isn’t quite the same the hotter it gets, so we just have to be careful with helicopters and air tankers how, you know, how heavy we load them,” Budge said.

Oregon Department of Forestry is also gearing up. The agency is fully staffing its dispatch and detection centers. They also canceled days off for firefighters. Between Jackson and Josephine counties, they will have more than a hundred firefighters on hand.

“Basically everyone’s going to be on board on Wednesday when we have potential lightning in the forecast,” Natalie Weber, Oregon Department of Forestry, said.

Officials say the good news is fuel moisture are currently in the low to moderate range due to recent rain. But this time around, we’ll have a lot of heat, and little to no moisture.

“Any moisture we did get last week, you know, will evaporate pretty quickly,” Budge said.

Cal Fire in Siskiyou County is also gearing up. It’s bringing in additional staff, engines and helicopters. All of the agency’s lookouts will be staffed but they want to encourage everyone if they see smoke or flames, call 911.

Anna Weeks is the anchor of NBC5 News at 5 and 11 and Your Place @7 with Anna Weeks. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Originally from the Portland area, Anna loves exploring Southern Oregon. In her free time, she enjoys reading, running, and watching sports.
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