Fire fighters hope to get ahead of wildfires with wetter weather

OR.- Cloud cover and wetter weather is rolling into southern Oregon. While it’s hardly enough rain to put out a wildfire, the teams at the Jack and Bootleg fires are thankful for the chance to get ahead of the flames.

“This is a good day. But this is just one day.”

Wildfire officials in southern Oregon know that Tuesdays’ rain is far a single solution to our wildfires. But it does help to keep flames suppressed and give crews a chance to advance their fight.

“While you have less fire activity, the crews on the ground can make a little more progress and get closer to the open fire, and go more direct,” explained Rick Davis, an incident meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He’s helping monitor weather on the Jack Fire in Douglas County.

He says the rain will help with humidity levels and keeps things cool, but it’s far from a fix-all.

“It kind of wet the canopy, or the tops of the trees, but it wasn’t really enough to get down to the ground, down to the fuels.”

Over at the Bootleg Fire in Klamath and Lake counties, the cooler weather is providing the same chance to get ahead.

“Higher humidity makes things less flammable, especially those really light fuels like grasses,” said Al Nash, public information officer at the Bootleg Fire. Even with the positive mood, there are still risks that crews and officials must keep an eye on.

“You can have a thunderstorm that’s giving really meaningful rainfall. But many yards or miles away you could have some really gusty winds which could fan the flames,” Nash explained. Though there will likely not be enough water to do so, Nash also says that rain can cause some flash floods or create mud, both of which make it hard to travel and maintain fire lines.

Officials say winds from the storms can also impact aerial fire fighting efforts, but they say they’ve been flying steady for most of the day.

Thunderstorms can also produce lightning, which is how the Bootleg Fire began more than 2 weeks ago.

“If a lightning strike strikes close enough to there they are currently working, they go out and work on that new fire, but it takes resources off of the current fire,” Rick Davis said.

With these storms, lightning detection centers in southern Oregon are watching closely. They want to capitalize on the favorable weather to catch lightning starts quickly.

“Hopping on these fires quickly while we have these cooler conditions today before we see the possibility for triple digit temperatures over the next couple of days return,” explained Kyle Reed with Douglas Forest Protective Association.

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