Dry lightning, new forest fires a threat this weekend

EUGENE, Ore. - Appearances can be deceiving: While Friday started out overcast in Eugene, forecasters urged Oregonians to be on the lookout for dry lightning Friday evening over the Central and South Oregon Cascades.

"Any thunderstorms that develop tonight and Saturday may not produce a lot of rain," the National Weather Service said Friday morning, "resulting in the potential for new fire starts."

Fire crews in Oregon and Washington already have almost a dozen fires - stubborn blazes at best, a threat to life, liberty at property at worst - burning in Oregon and Washington alone.

And a thick, smoky haze hangs over Idaho, visible from space.

That means crews could face the twin challenge of containing existing fires while hunting down and managing new ones.

"With low rainfall and very dry forest fuels, any lightning would be quite efficient at starting new fires," forecasters said. "Any gusty winds may create dangerous conditions on and around existing fires."

Since Wednesday, it's been illegal to build a fire anywhere except in developed campgrounds. Campers should refrain from starting fires in rock fire rings in informal pullouts on the Willamette National Forest.
   
Smokers also need to kick the habit except when inside a developed rec area or vehicle - unless they are willing to commit clearing a 3-by-3 foot area of all flammable materials in which to stand and puff.

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