Oregon raked by 5,400 lightning strikes, igniting 124 mostly small new wildfires

Firefighters have been busy across Oregon in the last 24 hours.

The state was rocked by a whopping 5,473 lightning strikes from Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday, and in a rare display, the strikes reached as far as the Coast Range near Newport.

The storms ignited 124 new wildfires, although just about all of them stayed small in part because the storms came with a decent amount of rain, according to the Northwest Coordination Center.

Central Oregon was hit hardest with 64 new wildfire starts and had the largest new blaze reported so far — the 57-acre Doghouse Gulch Fire. Located near the South Fork of the John Day River drainage, the blaze grew quickly.

“Firefighters expect several days of work to secure the fire,” Central Oregon Fire Information said. “Wind and warming temperatures across the area is a concern today as crews continue suppression efforts.”

Generally, the rest of the new fires remained small.

“The rest of the lightning fires were kept small, however there are many smokes that still need to be checked,” said Carol Connolly with NWCC. “Recon planes will be flying throughout the region today.”

One concern about all the new lightning strikes is that while the weather is favorable in the short term, another extended and extreme heatwave is being projected for next week. Lightning strikes can spark fires days or weeks after the original strike, especially as the weather turns hot and dry.

More:Cedar Creek Fire doubles in size, Waldo Lake closure expands to Three Sisters Wilderness

The impact on Oregon’s largest fires that were already burning was generally positive, although it didn't appear to put a major damper on them or come close to putting them out for the season.

The Cedar Creek Fire didn't see much rain or much growth, and was mapped at 3,772 acres.

"We didn't see much fire movement yesterday, although there is still heat in the Black Creek and south end of the fire near Waldo Lake," Cedar Creek Fire incident manager Kyle Cannon said in a morning briefing.

Indeed, fire crews already staffing large fires like Cedar Creek stayed busy mostly by putting out fires that ignited from lightning strikes.

Cedar Creek Fire slowed by rains

Thunderstorms that passed over the Cedar Creek Fire, which is listed at 3,772 acres and 0% containment, helped slow the fire to an extent.

Today, crews plan to continue working to prepare Black Creek Road as a containment line — meaning a place they're hopeful will hold the fire from passing across.

"Crews are clearing small diameter woody material on the north side of the road in anticipation of an eventual burnout operation that will contain the southern fire perimeter," a morning report said.

The closure area of the Cedar Creek Fire was expanded on Tuesday from just the west side of Waldo Lake and the Waldo Lake Wilderness to areas to the north into the Three Sisters Wilderness in the Erma Bell Lakes area.

Windigo, Potter, Big Swamp and Shelter fires

Cooler temperatures and calmer winds were present across the fires in this cluster burning in southern Oregon.

"Light showers and thunderstorms moved through the area, resulting in minor amounts of precipitation — progress was made on all fires," a morning report said.

Other fires

Crews on the Windigo Fire (1,009 acres) strengthened line around the entire perimeter yesterday, increasing the mop up depth to 100 feet in some portions.

Firefighters on the Potter Fire (306 acres) expect to perform strategic firing operations on the eastern and northern flanks of the fire later in the day and continue mop up operations and improve fire lines.

At the Big Swamp Fire (117 acres), crews continued to secure line with support from helicopters dropping water. "Today, firefighters will work to find opportunities to go direct on portions of the fire, secure lines and conduct mop up operations," the morning report said.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Oregon lightning strikes ignite 124 mostly small wildfires