A Douglas-fir tree struck by lightning in Columbia County. Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry

VERNONIA - Oregon Department of Forestry officials now say that the number of confirmed fires from lightning strikes early Thursday morning has grown to six, with crews investigating reports of three more smoke plumes.

A storm cell moved through the region overnight, with multiple lightning strikes recorded in Columbia County northeast of Vernonia around 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Thursday, August 29.

Crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry, fire agencies out of Clatskanie and Scappoose, and industry crews from the Evenson Logging Company working through the early morning hours — ODF crews began work at 3:30 a.m. — to halt the spread of the fires before they could become a larger threat.

One crew from the joint ODF and Oregon Department of Corrections South Fork Forest Camp, a prison facility located in the Tillamook State Forest, were assigned to the largest fire, and are working to ensure that the fire is fully out.

According to Mike Cafferata, District Forester out of Forest Grove, the largest fire is a 40' by 60' fire in rough terrain that crews had to walk to for access.

ODF is putting a plane in the air to fly over Columbia and Clatsop Counties Thursday afternoon to help locate reported smoke sightings and to look for anything else indicating a fire from the air.

"Members of the public are encouraged to call 911 to report any smoke they see," said Cafferata.

Other Fire & Forestry news

The fire danger for public use dropped back to moderate today at 12 p.m., meaning that OHV trails in the Tillamook State Forest have reopened. Industrial Fire Prevention Levels remain at 2.

This article has been updated with new information from ODF on the number of fires.