ODF on alert for new fires sparked by lightning

Jackson Co., Ore. — With lightning in the forecast on Thursday, fire crews around the region are on edge, on the look out for any sign of a spark. At the Oregon Department of Forestry headquarters, it was all hands on deck, and all engines out in the field.

“People are gearing up for a difficult and strenuous day,” Public Information Officer Melissa Cano said.

The fire agency’s dispatch center took calls all day of reported smoke or fires. Those reports are directly sent out to crews on the ground to investigate.

“Our engines have gone on over 800 calls just this summer,” Cano said.

Lightning in the forecast on Thursday only added to that number.

“There were several calls today that were just reports of smoke, that turned into nothing,” Cano said. “And quite frankly, that’s how we like them.”

NBC5 News was able to go out to one of those calls. At the time, crews were sent out for a reported plume of smoke in rural Eagle Point. After getting out and searching the area, firefighters were able to confirm a new fire hadn’t been sparked.

“But we rather take that call and guarantee that it is not a fire, than not receive a call at all,” Cano said. “Our firefighters are out there, canceling their day off, making sure they’re there and fully staffed, all throughout Jackson and Josephine counties, at all hours of the day and night, and it’s because we want to make sure we keep those fires small so they don’t impact others.”

ODF crews were called out to around twelve new fires in a 24 hour period. Nearly all of them were contained before reaching an acre.

Natalie Weber produces and anchors the weekend broadcasts of NBC5 News at 6 and 11. She reports during the week for NBC5 News at 5 and 6. Natalie is also the spokesperson for S.O. Close to Homeless, a community discussion on homelessness in our region, started by Access and NBC5 News.

Natalie began her career in journalism as an intern with NBC5 News during her senior year at South Medford High School. Following graduation, she was promoted to Producer for the morning news broadcast for NBC’s sister station, FOX26, then to Producer for NBC5 News at Sunrise.

Natalie took a break from news to work for the Medford Police Department as a Records Specialist. However, she missed the fast-paced environment of the newsroom. Natalie moved back to her hometown of Eureka, California to start her on-air career with North Coast News KAEF ABC23 before returning once again to NBC5 News.

Natalie attended Southern Oregon University. She enjoys spending time with friends and family as well as running, reading and exploring Southern Oregon.

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