Thunderstorms forecast for Malheur County, bringing lightning to parched landscape

Thunderstorms are forecast to hit Malheur County Monday afternoon into Tuesday night, with the risk “very high” for new large fires, according to forecasts issued Sunday.

The National Weather Service posted a red flag warning for “critical” fire conditions in the area from noon Monday until 10 p.m. Tuesday night.

“Temperatures are forecast to increase once again Sunday into Monday increasing overall fire potential. A threat of thunderstorms mainly over the southeastern tier will increase the potential for new fire development,” according to a forecast from the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.

The center said that the expected lightning means there is a greater than 20% chance of new large fires starting in the region.

The weather service said isolated to scattered thunderstorms would develop Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning. More thunderstorms are forecast for Tuesday afternoon.

“The fuels are extremely dry with ignition possible with every (lightning) strike,” the weather service warning said.

Storms could produce gusts of 35 mph to 50 mph.

Temperatures will hover around 100 degrees in the coming days, the weather service said.

Malheur County so far this fire season has escaped any significant wildfires, which a fire of about 100 acres north of Ironside the biggest to date.

The Vale Dispatch Center online report for Sunday showed that the Vale District BLM has some crews deployed to other major fires in Oregon, including the Darlene Fire near La Pine and the Bootleg Fire near Klamath Falls. The Bootleg Fire has been the largest wildfire in the country in recent days.

The dispatch report showed several engines and single-engine air tankers in service for the Vale District.

The Enterprise will provide updates through the day Monday as warranted. Watch our Facebook and Twitter pages for developments.