Eastern Oregon received over 13,000 lightning strikes as numerous thunderstorms moved through eastern Oregon in 10 days.
Firefighters have taken action on 70 fires across the six million acres of land protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and the Walker Range Forest Patrol in the Eastern Oregon Area.
Of these 70 fires, only one grew larger than ten acres, and the majority were suppressed as single trees or less than a tenth of an acre.
ODF firefighters also assisted federal partners and rural fire departments with fires on their jurisdictions to limit fires across the landscape.
Jamie Paul, Eastern Oregon Area Assistant Director, praised area fire crews for their efforts and hard work. “Responding to so many fires in such a short time period, and keeping them small, demonstrates how dedicated and aggressive ODF firefighters are to initial attack fire suppression,” she said.
In anticipation of the thunderstorms, additional resources were requested to support district and association personnel. These resources included engines from local rural fire departments, the Oregon Military Department, and ODF in western Oregon, as well as contract bull dozers.
In addition, aircraft specially funded by the Oregon Legislature were instrumental in the success of initial attacks.
These aircraft included single-engine air tankers, a heli-tack platform capable of delivering firefighters with gear quickly to remote fires and helicopters capable of dropping water to cool hotspots so that ground troops have time to engage.
Reconnaissance planes and spotters were effective in finding fires immediately following the storms, and were utilized to provide intelligence for fire managers and crews as they navigated into the fires.
Detection cameras across the Eastern Oregon Area are manned, with specialized lookouts trained to spot and locate fires through this remote technology.
In the Central Oregon District, detection camera operators were responsible for discovery of approximately 20 percent of the fires in the District.
Early detection allows firefighters to take action quickly while the fires are small, reducing exposure for firefighters and damage to natural resources, as well as financial impacts to landowners and others.
In addition to the fires on ODF protected lands,Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, volunteer firefighting entities in Central and Eastern Oregon’s high desert and range country suppressed more than 30 fires during this time period.
There have been 114 lightning fires in the Eastern Oregon Area this year, burning just over 1,300 acres, compared to the 10 year average of 107 fires burning just over 12,000 acres. In addition, 91 human-caused fires have burned 374 acres this year compared to 102 fires burning 2,630 acres for the 10 year average.
The Eastern Oregon Area (EOA) is comprised of three forest protection districts, one operating forest protective association, twenty-four rangeland fire protection associations and two state forests.