VALE – The National Weather Service out of Boise issued a fire weather watch for the area early this morning, but it has since been raised to a warning, indicating that scattered thunderstorms are possible across Malheur County Thursday. 

These thunderstorms could bring brief heavy rain, abundant lightning as well as gusty outflow winds.

The watch is in effect midday Thursday until Thursday evening.

The weather service is warning of 45 mph winds, and urges people to take precautions and to listen for later forecasts and more significant Red Flag warnings.

Al Crouch, Vale BLM fire operations specialist, said “it’s really anybody’s guess on how many fires we are going to have from now and the end of the year.”

“The historic peak of our fire season is right about now,” Crouch said. “This red flag warning really comes as no surprise.” 

A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will occur shortly.

Crouch said that despite a rather wet spring, lots of moisture in sagebrush has been lost in the last few weeks, and indications are that rangelands will continue to dry out, creating more fuel for fires.

He said moisture levels are "going down and they’re going down fast." 

Crouch said that the only thing that is under control is the number of how many human caused fires and that right now they are below average. 

“That’s a kudos to the pubic, and we appreciate that. We just need to maintain that diligence especially during this red flag warning,” Crouch added.

News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: joesiess.malheurenterprise@gmail.comor 541-473-3377.