Wildfires sparked by lightning kept firefighters busy today in the Deschutes National Forest west of Bend.
Fire crews fought about 22 new fires within a 10-mile radius of Crane Prairie Reservoir, Patrick Lair, spokesman for Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch in Prineville said this evening.
“Most of them were really small,” he said.
Helicopters pulled water from the reservoir and dropped it on some of the fires, Lair said, and an air tanker helped corral the largest of the fires, which burned about 25 acres four miles northeast of Crane Prairie Reservoir.
Air tankers were also aiding firefighters at the largest new fire in Central Oregon, the Sniption Fire about 5 miles southwest of Condon in Gilliam County. A pair of air tankers were dropping retardant ahead of the flames earlier today and Lair said two more were flying there this evening, joining an effort to keep the fire from crossing state Highway 19. The wind-drive grass fire, which started on private land before burning onto land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, had burned 12,000 acres by this evening and was threatening some homes. The number of homes and the fire’s cause were not available tonight.
Lightning late today prompted new reports of fires in the Deschutes National Forest. Firefighters tonight are checking on several reports of small fires near Three Creeks Road outside of Sisters and 10 other possible fires were reported across the national forest’s Bend-Fort Rock District. Smokejumpers were also en route tonight to three possible new fires around Crescent.
Thunderstorms around Central Oregon Tuesday, particularly over the Deschutes National Forest, triggered the rash of new wildfires discovered today. About 700 lightning strikes started more than 40 fires in Central Oregon on Tuesday afternoon and evening, including the 22 fires around Crane Prairie Reservoir, Lair said.
Firefighters kept the fires small, most less than an acre, including a fire in the city of Bend watershed. A lightning-sparked fire 2 miles south of Dayville blackened 40 acres and is contained.
More lightning could be coming to Central Oregon soon. A National Weather Service red flag warning for thunderstorms producing abundant lighting is in effect until 11 p.m. Saturday.
— Dylan J. Darling