Crews chase new wildfires sparked by lightning

Crews chase new wildfires sparked by lightning
Photo of lightning from near Black Butte on Tuesday evening by Ben Duda, Assistant Unit Forester in Sisters. Oregon Department of Forestry photo

OAKRIDGE, Ore. - When he called 911 to report seeing smoke rise from the forest where lightning had struck, the dispatcher had to ask.

"Wait a minute: your name is Lightning Bolt and you're calling in a lightning strike?" Thomas Lightning Bolt recalls the dispatcher asking.

But he wasn't the only person to see lightning followed by smoke.

For the second time this month, lightning raked across Oregon and left new wildfires in its wake.

On the Willamette National Forest, the Forest Service said crews are responding to two new smokes near Oakridge in the wake of Tuesday's lightning.

The Umpqua National Forest is tracking down 6 possible fires, and the Douglas Forest Protective Association is looking for starts on lands under its jurisdiction. | More on Douglas County's situation

Further south, fire managers report 15 new ignitions on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Crews are following up on another 29 fires on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Over in Central Oregon, the Interagency Dispatch Center received 59 reports of new fires sparked by lightning between 3 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Many of those incidents were single trees or small acreages that firefighters quickly contained.

Fire managers are watching the weather as lightning and wind threaten to visit parts of Oregon again Wednesday.

Even if storms deliver rain, warm weather is in the forecast for later this week.

Wildfires ignited by lightning can smolder in a tree, stump or even roots for days until the weather warms up and dries out the forest. These "holdover" fires can flare up long after a thunderstorm passes through an area.