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Lightning Starts New Fires in Oregon, But Humans Are Still The Leading Cause

Lightning-caused range fire in Eastern Oregon.
Lightning-caused range fire in Eastern Oregon.

Thunderstorms ignited more than 75 small wildfires in Southwest Oregon over the weekend. Firefighters extinguished many of the starts, but at least three have become large fires. 

Crews are fighting the Hendrix Fire, burning in the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest 10 miles south of Ashland, and the Gravel fire, burning near Prospect, Oregon.

A complex of 35 small fires near Jacksonville has forced some people to evacuate their homes.

Hot dry weather and more thunderstorms are forecast Monday in Southwest and Northeast Oregon.

Carol Connolly, with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, says firefighters are preparing for new lightning-caused fires.

“We have resources right now, it’s just we’re waiting to see where they’re best utilized," she said. 

Oregon currently has five Forest Service air tankers, several smaller aircraft and 40 smoke jumpers ready to respond to new fires.

More than 1,000 firefighters have been deployed so far this year. 

Fire danger is rated high across most western Oregon counties and to the extreme east of the Cascades. State fire managers are asking people to use caution and good sense while working, recreating, and camping.

“Our firefighters are working hard on these natural fires. Every human-caused fire out there takes resources away from the ones we can’t prevent,” said Connolly.

More than half the wildfires in Oregon this year were caused by human activity. Of 435 fires so far, humans started 261.

Fireworks, exploding targets, tracer ammunition and sky lanterns are prohibited statewide. Many counties have additional restrictions on mowing grass, using power saws, welding and off-road driving. 

The Oregon Department of Forestry has posted a full list of activities restricted during fire season.

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