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MailTribune.com
  • Rain helps firefighters deal with lightning strikes

    Some 29 wildfires were sparked in Jackson and Josephine counties during Tuesday's thunderstorm, but none grew out of control
  • The Oregon Department of Forestry spent Wednesday putting out 29 wildfires that sparked to life across Jackson and Josephine counties, courtesy of Tuesday's fierce thunderstorm.
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  • The Oregon Department of Forestry spent Wednesday putting out 29 wildfires that sparked to life across Jackson and Josephine counties, courtesy of Tuesday's fierce thunderstorm.
    But with steady rain and a cool shield of clouds assisting, ODF firefighters were able to get to all of them before they got out of control. Now spotters remain on the lookout for smoldering hotspots that may not become visible fires for days.
    "We had really good rainfall across the county," said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou. "It just really saved us a lot of work, trying to get water into some of those places. That really did pay off."
    Lightning-stuffed clouds rolled into Jackson County Tuesday afternoon, shooting out more than 1,200 air-to-ground strikes by the evening hours across the two counties. The National Weather Service reported a majority touched down in Jackson County.
    The largest of the blazes sparked by those strikes grew to about 11/2; acres at Murphy Gulch, about five miles east of Wimer. Another half-acre fire was reported in the Sardine Creek drainage, with a quarter-acre fire reported about three miles southwest of Ruch. The other 26 starts did not exceed one-tenth of an acre, including two on Grizzly Peak, east of Ashland.
    Lightning activity ramped up in Jackson County between 3 and 7 p.m. Tuesday. Rain, and even hail, fell in Ashland and Talent, and in the nearby western foothills, with more than half an inch of precipitation reported in some spots.
    About six-tenths of an inch fell at Fish Lake by Wednesday morning, and Klamath County's Summit Lake had received more than an inch.
    But the wet reprieve will be a brief one. Weather officials expect the recent familiar heat to begin its return today. By Friday, temperatures are expected to return to the mid-90s, potentially climbing back into the triple digits by the weekend.
    ODF lookouts across the district are fully staffed today, and firefighters will continue running reconnaissance flights to look for new smoke columns.
    "We fully expect to find more, particularly after the clouds break off," Ballou said.
    Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.
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