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Welcome rain brings new set of challenges for firefighters


Rain is falling in Central Oregon — for the first time in weeks in many spots — and that is a welcome sight for those out fighting fires for the past several weeks.

According to Incident Meteorologist Ian Morrison, the Whitewater Fire near Santiam Pass has seen its fair share of rain already.

“Well the rain has come, it started last night,” Morrison said Monday. “We have already had almost up to an inch of rain already.”

With the rain can come a new set of problems for those fighting the fires out on the front lines.

“Being out on the line in those hazardous conditions, it’s very slippery,” Morrison said. “You can lose your footing, and so there can be injuries that way.”

With unstable ground due to the rain, some officials worry about the potential threat of a landslide.

“I’m not talking about the large chunks of mountain coming down, but more of the areas that have burned to a higher degree — that burn scar is not held into the mountain very strongly,” Morrison said. “So a lot of water will bring down sections of that burn area.”

Fire officials welcome the rain and the support that it will bring to fighting the fires, but they realize the work is not yet done.

“Even with this rain, the fire’s not going to be totally out,” Morrison said. “After it dries out, the smoke is going to start back up,” Morrison said. “The rain is going to help a lot, don’t get me wrong, but the fire will not be out just because of this rain.”

Much of the Cascades is under a flash flood watch through Wednesday morning and could see one to three inches of rain, while the lower elevations could see a quarter to a half an inch of rain.

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