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Lightning caused small fires, quickly extinguished

State and federal fire authorities are spotting one to two small lightning fire starts every day since thunderstorms boomed through north central Oregon Wednesday, but they’ve been quickly extinguished.

The rainfall that accompanied the storms has provided much-needed moisture in fire fuels, said Chet Behling, The Dalles area spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“What we’ve been seeing is that lighting will hit a tree and spiral down to the ground where it’s covered, creep around the trunk of the tree, then go out when it hits moist fuels,” Behling said. “It’s not getting far.”

A reconnaissance airplane has been flying the area looking for lightning fire starts from Cascade Locks to Lolo Pass, south of Mosier and as far away as Warm Springs.

“We’re going to keep flying this plane until we stop getting these one or two fires each day,” Behling said. “We’re trying to catch them when they’re small.”

On the Shaniko Butte Fire on the Warm Springs reservation, sunshine and light winds rapidly dried roads Thursday morning, authorities reported.

By mid-morning, firefighters were able to drive to the top of the Mutton Mountains, allowing them to quickly attack the last unlined area of the fire. They completed firelines late Thursday evening.

Firefighters began mopping up along the southern edge of the fire and discovered a lot of hot spots.

Operations Section Chief Chris Hays said he expects another day of mop-up, but that increasing winds and higher temperatures could test the southeastern fire lines.

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