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Wildfires pop up across Central Oregon after recent lightning strikes; crews keep them small

Most fires caused minimal damage, have been contained; NW crews busy on Alaska blazes

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Over the Fourth of July weekend, Central Oregon firefighters responded to 22 small wildfire starts -- most sparked by lightning -- and thankfully were able to keep them small.

Due to the recent thunderstorms that broke out Saturday and Sunday, 18 of the fires were lightning caused.

"As we continue through the week and probably into next week, firefighters do continue to respond to new incidents that are continuing to pop up from the storms," Central Oregon Fire Management Service Public Information Officer Jaimie Olle said Tuesday.

Olle said lightning typically strikes trees and vegetation, creating an impact of energy that sparks these fires.

“So some of those may not pop up right away," she said, "and those are what we call holdover fires will continue to pop up as the days start heating up and we get more radiant sun on those areas.”

The upside to the recent fires is that they’re small and have been relatively easy to manage.

"A tenth of an acre -- a few of them have gotten a little bit larger, anywhere from a quarter to half an acre, with a couple about two acres," Olle said.

The Central Oregon Fire Info Twitter page, managed by the COFMS, said a 1/2-acre fire located south of Sheridan Mountain on the Deschutes National Forest had visible smoke and was being contained.

The biggest local blaze, which burned nine acres southeast of Madras, was not lightning-caused, but due improper disposal of burning material, Jefferson County Fire Chief Jeff Blake said Tuesday,

So as temperatures rise rise back into the 90’s, Olle advised everyone to take extra precautions.

"Make sure that your campfires are fully extinguished before you leave it," Olle said. "If you’re driving a trailer, make sure chains are attached and not dragging.”

Olle also advised that people shouldn't park and drive on dry grass, in an effort to reduce human-caused fires.

In general, new fire activity remains low across the Northwest as fire danger decreased with cooler, wetter weather. But that's not the picture in Alaska, where major fires are being fought, with help from Northwest crews.

A total of 15 Northwest crews, including 11 Interagency Hotshot crews, have responded to help battle 42 wildfires across Alaska. The nearly 1,000 personnel who have traveled to Alaska include three incident management teams and nearly 700 overhead staff.

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.

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