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ODF Slammed with Tracking Storms

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — An unusually hot and dry summer is putting the heat on fire crews.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is working around the clock to monitor fires ignited by lightning.

They say they’ve even called in help from other districts to aid in tracking efforts.

A Red Flag Warning was issued through Tuesday evening keeping fire crews on high alert.

One strike and it quickly scorches 15 acres of trees at Dexter Reservoir.

Proof of Mother Nature’s sheer power, wiping out land and ODF.

“We’re all kind of running on so-called fumes. You know five hours of rest is a luxury around here,” said Matt Mackey, ODF Wildland Fire Supervisor.

While crews are working to contain what’s on the ground, there’s an effort that spans farther than Dexter.

“The black are oldest, the pink are the newest lightning strikes that are currently happening,” said Brandy Simmons, ODF Office Specialist.

At the ODF office Simmons monitors hundreds of lightning strikes on this screen.

“Zoom into that and we can get a legal description and then send our resources out, our engines and our folks to basically find that on the ground and see if they can find that strike to see if there was a fire start,” said Simmons.

Simmons rotates between three screens, tracking aircraft that might be flying in the path of wildfires and checking visual images of fires across the South Cascade District.

“Today looks like a fairly busy day we’ve had a lot of fire starts this morning early on,” said Simmons.

“You know it seems like it’s almost a series of every five years that we get an event like this,” said Mackey.

Normally we don’t see this much lightning over several days Mackey says one, to two times a year.

But by his count this is our third event this summer.

“For right now, our resources are going out every single day finding new stuff. And so right now it’s kind of off to the races, trying to find what’s out there and get everything buttoned up so we can find the next one,” said Mackey.

There are a number of fires ODF is tracking within their district right now, but the two major ones are the Dexter Reservoir fire which is about 15 acres and one near Thomas Creek which is about five acres.

While the lightning strikes seem to be dying down ODF says we may not see the full results until two or three days from now.

They say Tuesday’s lightning strikes are wet, a fire can ignite but because of the moisture it might smolder for a few days before it becomes visible.

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