Oregon faces 'critical fire weather'

EUGENE, Ore. - Here we go again. Again.

Thunderstorms repeatedly pelted Oregon with lightning in July, sparking round after round of forest fires.

And a storm early on August 1 lit up the skies with lightning across Western Oregon.

Now forecasters say the region faces another bout of "critical fire weather."

"Some thunderstorms may produce little in the way of rainfall and frequent lightning," the National Weather Service in Portland said. "With fairly dry fuels in place, this may set the stage for numerous fire starts that have the potential to threaten initial attack resources."

"Initial attack" is a wildland firefighting term describing the first ground or air resources to go after a lightning-sparked grass or forest fire.

The fires that escape initial attack are the ones that balloon into acreage-charring megafires.

The Pacific Northwest has been at preparedness level 5 for weeks, on a scale of 1 (most resource available) to 5 (most resource committed).

The concern: With fewer wildland firefighters on standby to respond, more lightning-caused fires could escape initial attack.

"Lightning strikes on dry, drought-stricken vegetation will lead to multiple fire starts that have the potential to overwhelm initial attack resources," the National Weather Service in Medford said.