Local dispatchers prepare for lightning and potential wildfires

A majority of wildfires in the Willamette National Forest are started by lightning, so when there are storms in the forecast, they call in additional resources.

Posted: Jul 15, 2018 6:55 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2018 7:07 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Dispatchers in Lane County are watching Sunday's lightning storm very closely.

Amy Harpole is the Lead Logistics Dispatcher at the Eugene Interagency Communication Center. She said a majority of wildfires in the Willamette National Forest are started by lightning, so when there's storms in the forecast, they call in additional resources. 

"Either crews and engines, even additional dispatchers to help us out. Also when we have lightning in the forecast, we will schedule a detection flight from a fixed wing aircraft," said Harpole. 

She said that aircraft will fly over the forests to look for smoke or lightning struck trees.

That extra help is needed, because lightning brings a unique set of problems.

"Lightning tends to be just anywhere it what's to be, not necessarily in easily accessible places and it also can bring with it a lot of starts in a short amount of time," said Deputy Interagency Fire Officer Eric Johnson.

He said this is the driest we've ever been for this time of the year, so preventing human caused fires is very important.

He said one way to do that, is to make sure your campfire is completely out: "Dead out means that it's cold to the touch, you can put your fingers in there and you know that's it out".

He also said to never throw away something that's burning, like a cigarette.

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