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Lightning a Fire 

A week of high heat followed by a week of fire

Thunderstorms ignited wildfires across Central Oregon on the night of July 31. As of this writing firefighters have responded to 15 wildfires and are seeking to locate the source of six reported smoke sightings. The fires come at the end of a week of uncharacteristically high temperatures in a year of unprecedented drought in Central Oregon.

This aerial photo of the Fly Creek Fire was taken on July 31. - COURTESY OF CENTRAL OREGON FIRE INFOMATION
  • Courtesy of Central Oregon Fire Infomation
  • This aerial photo of the Fly Creek Fire was taken on July 31.

The Fly Creek Fire is the largest fire raging in Central Oregon at 280 acres. The fire engulfed 280 acres along the Metolius arm of Lake Billy Chinook in the Deschutes National Forest after quickly spreading to grass, brush and junipers. Six engines and a dozer got the fire to 5% containment overnight on July 31, and on Aug. 1 two handcrews (trench-digging firefighters creating containment lines), one hotshot crew (highly trained wildland firefighter units of 20 people), six fire engines, a dozer, and aerial support engaged the fire. Jefferson County issued evacuation notices for the Perry South and Monty Campgrounds, and a "Get Set" notice is in place for the Three Rivers area. By Aug. 2 the fire remained 280 acres and is 25% contained.

Lightning sparked the Tolo Mountain Fire on July 27 and is currently burning 41 acres about 3 miles north of Cappy Mountain and 6 miles west of the Two Rivers subdivision. Ten parachuting firefighters, two fire engines, a five-person hand crew, dozer and air tankers responded to the fire on July 29. As the fire continued to grow more crews were called in to contain the fire.

The fire reached its current size on July 30, and though it's been bolstered by high heat and winds, it's remained at 41 acres. On July 31 the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for abundant lightning north of the fire. As of Aug. 2, it's 75% contained, and firefighters are working to secure the perimeter and monitor for spot fires.

Firefighters responded to over a dozen smaller fires that started the night of July 31. The West Cultus Fire about 2 miles northwest of Cultus Lake on the Deschutes National Forest engulfed a tenth of an acre, and the Juniper Creek Fire, which is about 10 miles south of the Fly Creek Fire, burned about an acre of land. The thunderstorms are prompting caution from fire officials.

"...Frequent lightning and strong outflow winds will be the primary concerns for any new and existing fires. Winds in combination with low humidity will cause rapid fire spread in dry grassy areas," Central Oregon Fire Information, a partnership of government agencies, said in a press release. "Outflow winds of 30 to 50 mph may occur with thunderstorms. Some storms may produce heavy rainfall, others are expected to be drier in nature. Red Flag Warnings issued by The National Weather Service remain in effect across most of central Oregon today."

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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