Thunderstorms and human-caused fires have kept firefighters busy all summer, but while much of the west coast is ablaze, Lake County has thankfully been spared of many large-scale fires consuming much of the surrounding area, albeit completely encircled by a ring of fire.
Most fires necessitating fire crew response are actually human caused, but lightning from recent thunderstorms has wreaked more than its fair share of havoc as well. Over 1,500 lightning strikes were recorded in the Fremont-Winema National Forest alone following thunderstorm activity Aug. 4-5, resulting in ten new reported fires. Since July 21 there have been 155 confirmed fire starts in the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) area as of Monday, Aug. 11.
A red flag warning remained in effect through Tuesday, Aug. 12 for Lake County, meaning weather conditions combined with dry fuels and potential lightning create an extreme fire danger. Yet while the dangers have been there, Lake County has oddly emerged (knock on wood) relatively unscathed.
The implementation this year of the Lakeview Interagency Fire Center (LIFC), dispatching fire crews throughout the SCOFMP area has proven to be a huge success, coordinating air and ground resources to maximize fire suppression efforts keeping any new fires small in acreage. At the LIFC any new fires are monitored and responded to as needed to prevent expansion of blazes, with fire crews and air support pre-positioned for a fast response.
“Wildfire knows no boundaries,” said Interagency Fire Staff Officer Joe Reinarz for the Lakeview District BLM and Fremont-Winema National Forest. “It is due to our local resources ability to work interagency and cross boundaries that suppression has been as successful as it has been this fire season.”
While a few sporadic rain clouds have brought much needed relief, the very dry winter and hot conditions have led to extreme fire dangers. This has resulted in extensive use restrictions on public lands, mobilization of the national guard, Gov. John Kitzhaber declaring a state of emergency, and Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley continuing to pursue emergency spending bills in Congress to aid in wildfire efforts.
With more lightning expected, fire crews are preparing for yet another round of fires. From Klamath to Josephine and into northern California and Nevada, the 2014 fire season has proven devastating. Homes have been lost, areas evacuated, public lands and roads closed, and millions of dollars have been spent in trying to control the blazes that ignite anew as quickly as one is contained.
Evacuation orders were issued near the July Complex fire, which also forced shutdown of Hwy 97 along the state border last week, having grown to over 15,000 acres and prompting the closure of much of the Klamath National Forest.
Other large fires active around the state include the Whites Fire (12,000 acres), the Beaver Fire (24,804 acres) near Yreka, Calif., the Oregon Gulch Fire (35,129 acres) near Ashland and the Day Fire (13,153 acres) in Modoc County.
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