Lightning storm does not spark fires in Sweet Home area

Sunday evening’s lightning storm didn’t appear to spark any fires in the Sweet Home area.

Chad Calderwood, Oregon Department of Forestry Sweet Home Unit forest protection supervisor, said the storm cell stalled out at the county line. He said lightning did ignite a couple of fires in the Shotgun Creek area, which local ODF crew members assisted on.

“We did get some lighting in the area from visual observation,” he said. “Our crew has been patrolling the Brush Creek, Crescent Hill and Coburg Hills (Gap Road) areas.”

Lebanon Fire District had two grass fires caused by lightning Sunday evening, one at 32843 Sand Ridge Road. En route to the fire, crew on an engine discovered a new fire at 36159 Airport Road, and the Sweet Home Unit provided mutual aid on the fire.

Both fires burned about a quarter acre.

After the lightning, the winds kicked up and took down some power lines in eastern Sweet Home and east of town, Calderwood said. ODF crews also assisted on those calls, and Monday morning they responded to a fire in the Eastern Lane Unit of the South Cascade District, about a mile from the Sweet Home District in the Shotgun area.

The Eastern Lane Unit responded to numerous fires east of the Springfield, Dexter and Lowell areas, he said.

The U.S. Forest Service reported numerous calls Monday, with 40 new fires on the Middle Fork and six in the McKenzie River Ranger District as of 6 p.m. Monday.

The majority of the fires on both districts are small; with just a few of them between 1 and 5 acres.

The largest new fire is on the eastern slopes of Mt Hagan near Blue River. That fire is between 6 and 10 acres; retardant drops occurred throughout Monday afternoon and water-carrying helicopters were en route to reinforce work crews on the ground. The fire was visible from Highway 126, Blue River Reservoir and the community of Blue River.

“It has been a very busy day, and we have had great help from our cooperating agencies, including Oregon Department of Forestry” commented Forest Supervisor Meg Mitchell

“Our staff are prioritizing the fires that are nearest to towns and private land. We will be back at this tomorrow. While we have had to close two trails near Oakridge (Larison Rock and Deception Creek), our recreation sites are still open,”she added. More crews and helicopters are coming to assist with efforts on both ranger districts.

Calderwood said two local ODF firefighters have been assisting with fires in Rowena and eastern Lane County.

With a high likelihood of thunderstorms predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday, he said ODF is watching and waiting.

“We have everybody here. It’s pretty active for our South Unit, but we haven’t picked up anything as of yet. We’re fully staffed and prepared.

The mid-week storms are expected to pack more moisture, which could help reduce the fire danger, Calderwood said.

“The cooler temperatures with rain will definitley help our fuels and cool things down. It may give us a chance to get a breather.”