Two years after massive lightning storm, firefighters reflect

MEDFORD, Ore. – Two years ago, a lightning storm rolled through the area causing more than 100 fires throughout the region. Communities and wildlife were threatened, much of it from fires that started on July 15th.

After a dry winter this year, fire officials are concerned we could face a similar season.

“We had a lightning strike from mother nature that resulted in over 100 fires at the same time,” said Merv George from The Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest.

He remembers the 2018 fire season like it was just yesterday.

“Over 100 fires that are going that are threatening communities, as well as the back country at the same time. That makes for a really challenging situation and you simply just run out of resources when that happens,” said George.

The Forest Supervisor for the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest, George says fire agencies in the southwest part of Oregon can usually take out 12 to 24 wildfires at one time.

This time 2 years ago, having over 100 wildfires brought firefighters from several different agencies together with a united cause.

“It didn’t matter what color jersey you wore we all had the same mission, we all had the same goal. That was to get the fires out as quickly and as safely as we could,” said George.

Brain Ballou of ODF says it was one of many harsh fire seasons they have learned from.

“We are better equipped than we were say 20 years ago. Are we significantly better equipped than we were in 2018? Perhaps in small ways,” said Ballou.

While it’s been a quiet fire season, so far, fire agencies warn people the area is still at risk.

“Probability of escape fires turning into large fires is significantly higher,” said Ballou.

With a global pandemic going on, and the area prone to its fair share of dry lightning this time of year firefighters say they can use your help.

ODF is raising the fire danger level to high Friday for the southwest portion of Oregon.  NBC5 News was told an easy way people can prevent wildfires, is carrying a fire extinguisher in your car.
It says many summer fires start from hot cars creating sparks on dry grass.

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Katie Streit
NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]