Rain and extra support hold off lightning-caused fires

MEDFORD, Ore.– Forest agencies are breathing a collective sigh of relief this weekend as storms passed through southern Oregon without causing any major fires.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Service says that lightning did cause several fires. However, things were a little different this year than years prior.

“With the moisture though was the wild card,” said Dan Quinones, deputy fire staff in charge of operations for the RRSNF. “How much are we going to get? When is it going to come and where’s it going to be at?”

Hundreds of lightning strikes hit hard this weekend in southern Oregon drawing concerns of a repeat of last summer. At the end of it though, the forest service says it responded to only 13 fires.

“We faired much better than we have the last couple years largely due to precipitation that we received,” said Virginia Gibbons, public information officer for the forest service.

Each fire was quickly controlled due in part to the resources on hand. After lightning caused the catastrophic fires and smoke last year, the forest service had an additional 400 personnel on hand in preparation for this storm.

“Based on the last two years that we’ve had, we weren’t going to take any chances,” said Gibbons.

According to the National Weather Service, some 1,600 strikes were counted in 24 hours. But within the last two days, the forest service says an inch of rain fell with it providing additional help in preventing fires.

“More moisture than we anticipated but that’s ok,” said Quinones. “After the 2017 and 18 seasons, we’ll take it.”

However, with this rain and additional support, the forest service is warning we’re not out of the clear yet. With the risk of fire for several more months, agencies are staying vigilant.

“We still have our lookout’s staffed. It’s not like we’re, ‘Oh we’re good for the season,'” said Gibbons. “We’re not quite there yet. So we’re still really vigilant and will be prepared to respond quickly to any initial attack starts.”

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