600 lightning strikes, 45 fires from Thursday thunderstorms

A fire sparked by lightning Thursday afternoon in a kipuka seven miles east of Sunriver. (Submitted photo)

More than 600 bolts of lightning struck Central Oregon in a raucous series of storms Thursday, igniting 45 wildfires, according to the Central Oregon Fire Management Service.

The Glass Buttes Fire, a grass fire 85 miles east of Bend near U.S. Highway 20, is the largest of the fires at an estimated 26.5 acres, according to Patrick Lair, public affairs officer for the U.S. Forest Service. Forward progress of the fire has been stopped and its close to being called contained, Lair said.

Other new fire starts have been contained at less than an acre. New starts are expected to be located in the coming days, with air patrols searching for smoke, Lair said.

Fire suppression teams have fanned out across the region to attack the flames, with multiple air resources standing by at the Redmond Air Center and Prineville Helibase, according to the agency.

One of the fires occurred inside a 33-acre kipuka — a forested area surrounded by lava flows — close to Ikt Butte, 7 miles east of Sunriver. After assessing the risk to public and firefighter safety, officials will monitor this fire instead of taking immediate suppression efforts.

Substantial rain that came with the thunderstorms helped to suppress the Canyon 66 Fire, a 5,072-acre prescribed burn. While the fire is largely extinguished, fire officials warn that smoke from the charred remains of the burn will continue through the weekend and possibly beyond.

Bend received 0.59 inches of rain Thursday, according to data published on the National Weather Service website. This year, 11.13 inches of rain has been recorded in Bend, close to the 11.37 annual average for Bend.

There is a slight chance of more thunderstorms Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

The Tumalo Creek Fire, started by lightning late last month near Tam McArthur Rim west of Bend, has been fully contained at 12 acres.

In Eastern Oregon, the 204 Cow Fire has burned 9,602 acres of land southwest of Unity and is 65% contained.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, mkohn@bendbulletin.com

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