Stormy summer on the High Desert - fiery, too

Area's thunderstorms - and fires - above average

Unusually stormy summer on the High Desert

BEND, Ore. - Even longtime Bend residents are noticing something's a little different up in the sky this year.

"I've lived in Bend for about 15 years,"Pearl Stark said Wednesday. "Usually the lightning seems further out of town, you see it in the distance, but thunderstorms in town is something new this summer."

The National Weather Service's Pendleton office says between 1996 and 2008, Roberts Field in Redmond averaged four days of thunderstorms from July to August. For 2014, we've seen six days of thunderstorms -- and August isn't half over yet.

And then there are the results of those storms: lightning-sparked wildfires.

The 10-year average for wildfires on Central Oregon public lands is 363 -- and so far we've had 439 this year, said Lisa Clark at the regional dispatch center in Prineville.

The 10-year average for acres burned in Central Oregon is 34,778, Clark said - and this year, we've had about 260,000 acres burned so far.

Crews actually have been dispatched to nearly 800 incidents, but many of them were either never found, or were multiple reports on the same smoke -- even someone calling in a dust devil or the like, Clark said. So there have been more than 400 staffed wildfires.

"Cloud cover and precipitation have allowed us to actively suppress fires quickly," said Trevor Miller with Deschutes National Forest.

The storms can either help or hinder the fight against fire.

"It's good and bad from two different scenarios," Miller said. "Good from the ignition standpoint. It's been good that they've been somewhat wet vs. strictly dry lightning storms,"

Even with the wet thunderstorms, there's still plenty of fire season left.

"We'll rebound back into high fire conditions and expect continued starts and ignitions throughout Central Oregon," Miller said.

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