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MailTribune.com
  • UPDATED: Lightning strikes hit Southern Oregon hard

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  • Thunderstorms shot out between 2,000 and 2,500 lightning strikes across Southern Oregon Wednesday afternoon and night, with about 850 touching down in Jackson County.
    The National Weather Service reported more are likely on the way today, and have issued the third red flag warning in a row for this week. The warning, issued because of the lightning, dry terrain, and a 102-degree predicted high temperature, will be in effect from 2 to 11 p.m. today. It covers the Southern Oregon Cascades, Siskiyou Mountains, eastern Rogue Valley, Umpqua National Forest, and Fremont-Winema National Forest.
    Weather officials said there's also a chance of scattered rain showers today. Starting at 10 a.m., there is a 20 percent chance of precipitation across Jackson County. That chance increases to about 40 percent by the afternoon hours.
    The Oregon Department of Forestry reported the lightning activity kickstarted 12 new fires around Jackson and Josephine counties. Containment lines have been drawn around all reported fires.
    "It doesn't look like anything's running away, so that's the best news," said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou.
    The largest, reported 15 miles north of Gold Hill at Salt Creek, has an estimated size between 80 and 100 acres. Ballou said fire crews had difficulty accessing that blaze, needing to re-open old, overgrown logging roads with bulldozers. Smoke is still visible from Medford. 
    "They've still got a lot of work to be done," Ballou said.
    Another fire near Beaver Creek has grown to five acres, and blazes near Buck Rock and Willie Rock are up to four. The other nine fires have not exceeded half an acre in size. Those fires were reported at Kenyon Ridge, Slick Rock Cabin, Point Mountain, Flat Creek, East Evans Creek, Horn Gulch and Hells Peak. 
    Numerous lightning-sparked fires have been reported across the region the last two days, including 34 that had flared up in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Wednesday.
    Of that number, 28 were reported in the High Cascades Ranger District, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Paul Galloway. The largest of those fires is the Camp Creek Fire, located near the Rustler Lookout east of Lost Creek Lake, reported to be about 10 to 15 acres in size. Engines, hand crews and a helicopter are beating back the flames. The remaining fires are less than an acre in size.
    The additional six fires reported in the Siskiyou Mountains District are near or within the Ashland watershed. All were less than an acre in size. 
    Firefighters continue to perform mop-up work at the  Reeves Creek Fire southwest of Grants Pass, which had a full containment line drawn around it Wednesday but was only considered 50 percent contained because of the looming storms. Its acreage has been scaled back from 232 acres to 204. Crews have been able to move 300 feet into the interior during mop-up work, Ballou said.
    "The fire looks like it's very stable," he said. 
    The 100-acre Launch Fire, burning at Four Mile Lake, also has a full containment line around the fire. The blaze has been determined to be human-caused, according to the Incident Information System website.
    The 25-acre lightning-sparked Pumice Flat Fire, located at Crater Lake National Park's southern boundary, was considered 75 percent contained Wednesday afternoon.
    — Ryan Pfeil
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