Lightning strikes start new wildfires in Oregon

Lightning strikes start new wildfires in Oregon
Photo of the Green Ridge fire burning in Central Oregon. (courtesy: Inciweb)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — More than 10,000 lightning strikes peppered the state Friday and Saturday, igniting many small wildfires in central and southern Oregon.

The lightning was accompanied by some rain, but fire managers had yet to determine if it made much of an impact.

"The precipitation did hamper some firefighting efforts. Firefighters couldn't do back burn kind of things because of precipitation in certain areas," said Sarah Levy, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

"But obviously precipitation is usually a good thing for fires," she added. "Everyone's still trying to sort out what the picture is."

There are eight major fires or complexes of fires in Oregon, all coming after barrages of lightning since late July. The largest active fire is the Douglas Complex in southwest Oregon, which has scorched about 70 square miles.

Fire spokesman Paul D. Ries said crews would take advantage of less active fire behavior to strengthen containment lines and protect homes. Wet thunderstorms were in Saturday's forecast, and they could be accompanied by gusty winds and hail.

On the Big Windy Complex northwest of Grants Pass, a firefighter who suffered from a heart condition had to be evacuated late Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the incident team said the firefighter remained in the hospital Saturday and his condition is stable.

A 19-year-old firefighter died at the same fire complex Tuesday when the water truck he was driving overturned.

In Eastern Oregon, the state fire marshal said cool weather and light rain allowed officials monitoring the Grouse Mountain Fire near John Day to lift a warning that structures are threatened. The fire advanced toward neighborhoods on the edge of the city late Thursday but was stopped by an air-and-ground attack.

Nearly 7,000 firefighters and support staff are tackling blazes across Oregon.