Lightning sparks new WA fires


by Staff and Associated Press

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:37 PM

Video: Thousands of lightning strikes in Central WA

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Lightning storms have sparked dozens of new wildfires in Eastern Washington, leaving firefighters scrambling to douse them in dry, hot conditions.

Guy Gifford of the state Department of Natural Resources says most of the fires are small in size. No structures are immediately threatened, and no evacuations have been ordered.

Sixteen fires were reported Thursday in the Methow Valley Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Four fires were reported in the Tonasket Ranger District.

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The Natural Resources Department dispatched a crew to the Colville Indian Reservation to oversee the firefighting effort in that region.

The department has deployed 200 firefighters, 30 fire engines, five helicopters and a 900-gallon air tanker to douse the fires in northeast Washington.

KING 5 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Renner says, at one point, 4,000 lightning strikes were recorded in one hour in northeast Washington and the east slopes of the north Cascades, primarily from the north end of the Columbia River Basin to Okanogan.

Renner says expect the thunderstorms to increase Friday in the same region.

West of the Cascades, fire managers are monitoring several new fires in the Glacier Peak Wilderness on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, as well as two fires in Olympic National Park. All are believed to have been started by lightning weeks ago, then smoldered.