Lightning fires

Umpqua National Forest map of lightning strikes between Aug. 9 and Aug. 11.

COURTESY OF CHERYL CAPLAN

Update: The U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed several roads in the Tiller Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest for firefighting Friday evening, including most of the access to the western side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide Wilderness.

The large thunderstorm over the Umpqua basin Thursday brought lightning strikes across the Umpqua National Forest, creating more wildfire starts.

There are currently 42 confirmed fires in the Umpqua National Forest, which are keeping fires crews busy with suppression efforts in areas of steep, rugged terrain. Fire managers are working to move resources throughout the forest to suppress new and existing fires.

There are currently 22 reported fires in the Diamond Lake Ranger District, five in the North Umpqua Ranger District and 15 in the Tiller Ranger District, which includes fires within the Falcon Complex. No fires were confirmed to be burning in the Cottage Grove Ranger District.

"We know there are more fires out there so we will be flying detection flights today," Cheryl Caplan of the Umpqua National Forest said. Douglas Forest Protective Association (DFPA) is also helping the U.S. Forest Service suppress and detect fires in the forest.

A red flag weather warning continues through Friday, as more lightning is expected, along with a cold front coming through Douglas County on Saturday.

"Although we're excited about the cooler temperatures and maybe some more moisture with that, cold fronts bring in some squirly winds as they enter the area," Caplan said. Gusty winds can fan existing fires and carry active flames to other areas.

Meanwhile, only one new fire ignited from Thursday's lightning on DFPA-protected lands. The one-and-a-half-acre Hill Creek Fire is located 7 miles east of Glide."We used a helicopter first thing this morning to keep the fire in check while the ground resources worked their way into it," Kyle Reed of the DFPA said. "We now have a fire line and hose around the fire. Crews will work throughout today to improve the fire line and mop up hot spots."

Only about a dozen lightning strikes were recorded on or within a mile of areas protected by the DFPA, and Reed said the agency will be monitoring those areas to look for additional starts. 

"While we may see cooler temperatures for a few days, the fire danger is still at extreme on DFPA protection," Reed said. "The hot weather that we have had the last week or so has really made an impact on our forest fuels... they are very dry!"

Any new fires have the potential to show extreme fire behavior and grow quickly, despite the cooler temperatures. 

There are more fires in the forest this August than a year ago, as 2016 was a very light fire season for the forest, Caplan said, but there were fires on the landscape in 2015.

Caplan said the U.S. Forest Service would prefer campers stay in designated camping areas instead of disperse camp in the woods.

"It helps us know where people are located," Caplan said. "So if something were to happen or we need to let them know about fires in the area, if they're disperse camping we might not know if they're down this road or three other roads tucked into a valley somewhere, but if they're at Horseshoe Bend Campground or Kelsay Valley Campground, we know about the designated recreation sites and our recreation folks keep people informed about what's going on."

With the amount of firefighter traffic in the forest, the Forest Service also asks the public to stick to designated sites and not drive on forest roads that could block firefighters from gaining access to the fires. No open flames are allowed in the forest, other than for small, controlled campfires in fire rings at official campgrounds.

Smoking is prohibited except within a closed vehicle or building or in a boat on water, and matches and smoking material must be disposed in a metal container instead of on the ground.

For a list of recreation sites, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd554660.pdf.

 For more information about the Falcon Complex on the Tiller Ranger District, visit InciWeb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5484/#. For more information about the Umpqua National Forest, visit social media sites https://twitter.com/UmpquaNF and https://www.facebook.com/UmpquaNationalForest.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com. Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Outdoors and Natural Resources Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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