The challenges of fighting fire in a storm

Lightning from Cave Junction (Courtesy to Kasey Lunt/ News 10).

Lightning and thunder were seen and heard through the Rogue Valley on Friday night, and fire crews were keeping a lookout for potential fires.

The storms can bring on additional challenges to fire crews they might not necessarily have to deal with when there is no lightning or rain.

"When we get a lot of rain from lightning storms like that, it makes it harder to detect them because of the rain and the visibility challenges that adds and after the rain there are what we call 'water dogs' and fog pockets that are in the hills that can be mistaken for smoke," Bill Smith, Wildfire Supervisor for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said.

Another big challenge can happen before crews even arrive at a potential fire.

"We do a lot of driving to these fires so it's a high-frequency event for us and so it's one of the most dangerous things we do -- is the driving -- and so the roads get degraded with the rain, even the paved roads getting out there that haven't been rained on for a long time are real slick," Smith said.

The slick roads can cause issues not only getting up to the fire but coming back from it as well.

"We get up in the woods and say we set ourselves up on a fire and the rain really starts happening, if the roads are a little bit going in, then coming out of those fires, it's really bad and really muddy coming back out so we really have to watch that in our travels," Smith said.

Smith also mentions another big concern is what they call "sleeper fires" -- fires that pop up a few weeks after a lightning storm because they have been suppressed by the rain.

"In situations like this particular storm with all the rain is those sleeper fires that come up in a week from now and so we would be reconning and looking for those really actively and our detection center cameras would be really focused on those lightening areas," Smith said.

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