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Red flag: More fires may be on way for High Desert

By John Hendricks
Joe Burns
Published On: Jul 30 2013 08:47:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2013 01:24:52 AM CDT

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the pending Red Flag warning for Central Oregon

PRINEVILLE, Ore. -

A red flag warning for possibly abundant lightning could mean more wildfires to come. Tuesday afternoon, six air tankers were stationed at the Redmond Air Tanker Base.

"We can move resources around the country as severity increases," said Jean Nelson-Dean, Deschutes National Forest public affairs officer.

Right now, the Northwest is a top priority for firefighting resources as hot, dry conditions have turned Central Oregon into a tinderbox.

"This ecosystem around here is made for fire," said Nelson-Dean. "So we have to prepare for it and know what's going to happen."

NewsChannel 21 visited the region's fire headquarters in Prineville on Tuesday. And officials say they're prepared for whatever the season brings.

Fire officials told us we'll be seeing more restrictions on what the public can use, like with chainsaws and campfires.

"We prepare, we train," said Nelson-Dean. "We do this every year, and we've been doing it for a long time."

The Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center, or COIDC, monitors about 9 million acres of land.

"We have a pool of resources on the initial attack side, and then we have more resources on the logistic side that are available to us," said Valerie Reed, assistant logistics manager at COIDC.

The track it all, from the engines, water tenders and personnel, to all the supplies that crews need to battle big fires.

And officials are anticipating more fires heading into August, the traditional peak of fire season.

"We knew going into the season we were going to have a very dry season -- we could tell," Nelson-Dean said.

Central Oregon didn't see a lot of rain at the beginning of summer -- and there hasn't been a drop in July.

"When we have a lightning bust, it's extremely busy," Nelson-Dean said. "We are catching fires right and left."

If a major fire breaks out anywhere in Central Oregon, COIDC says it has the resources to mobilize about 1,000 people in a 24- to 48-hour period.

"We provide food, provide overhead, provide showers, provide camp toilets," Reed said. "Everything they need, tools and supplies."

They're working behind the scenes to make sure firefighters have what they need to get the flames out fast.

Fire officials are stationed at COIDC 24 hours a day starting in early spring, all the way through fall.

They told us they catch 98 percent of fires on initial attacks.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 21 and KTVZ.COM for up-to-date Fire Alert coverage.

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