By SARA CLINE
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters have made “significant progress” in containing the wildfires in Oregon, but officials warned Thursday the next 24 hours of weather could play a critical part in suppressing or spreading flames.
Storms Thursday evening will bring much needed moisture in Oregon, but the rain may be partnered with lightening and strong winds, which will likely disperse thick smoke covering the state but could also expand wildfires.
“We are expecting some challenges with the weather,” said Doug Grafe the chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry. “If (wind) comes in front of that storm front— then it is going to push containment lines where we have them established.”
Parts of Oregon are predicted to receive up to an inch of rain, which could help the thousands of firefighters battling flames across the state, Grafe said.
The National Weather Service in Portland issued a Flash Flood Watch Thursday afternoon for a portion of Northwest Oregon, citing that loose rocks and debris, which has been increased due to the wildfires, will likely fall down hills and into roads.
Due to the expected heavy rainfall, state officials are temporarily suspending recovery work in the area of one of Oregon’s largest fires east of Eugene Thursday night into Friday.
Officials are urging residents who have not evacuated to do so now or to remain in their homes during the storm.
The other looming problem that fire officials are closely watching is wind.