Prineville — Recent thunderstorm activity has increased fire starts in Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Central Oregon District, which includes lands in the Columbia River Gorge. While these storms have brought with them isolated precipitation and increased humidity it is not enough to mitigate the record dry fuel conditions across the area, according to an ODF press release.

Kiel Nairns, Acting Unit Forester for The Dalles Unit, cautions landowners and the public, not to get complacent with the recent precipitation. “The moisture from these thunderstorms is only going to dampen fuels for a few hours, and then we’ll be back to the same extreme fuel conditions.”

Lightning from Thursday’s thunderstorms ignited five fires in the Prineville Unit, all of which were kept to a tenth of an acre or a single lightning struck tree. Two lightning fires reported Thursday evening in the John Day Unit were also stopped at a tenth of an acre.

Three holdover fires from Thursday’s storms have been reported today in the John Day Unit. The larger of these fires, Cottonwood Creek Fire, is estimated to be 75 acres and is burning in grass, brush and timber. Initial reports describe the fire as running, torching and spotting are indicative of how rapid fire is spreading in the wildland fuels. This fire is staffed with engines, helicopters, heavy air tankers, Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and dozers.

The second fire is reported to be approximately one acre burning west of the Morrow County OHV Park. Two helicopters are supporting firefighters on this incident. Firefighters are responding to a third incident reported five miles north of Seneca. No size up is available at this time for this emerging incident.

A Regulated-Use Closure is in effect for the Central Oregon District to reduce human caused fires. The closure restricts mowing of dried grass, cutting and grinding of metal, and chainsaw use between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. as well as prohibiting campfires, cooking fires and warming fires. The full proclamation and restrictions are available at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/PFR.html.

Industrial operations on forestland within the Central Oregon District also have restrictions in place. Details for these activities are found at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/IFPL.html.

Preventing human caused fires allows firefighters to focus suppression effort on fires started by lightning. These focused activities result in smaller fires with less damage to natural resources and communities and fewer impacts to air quality.

For additional information on ODF’s Central Oregon District, including contact information and unit offices, please visit www.ODFcentraloregon.com.