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Lightning fades, but fire threat remains high

The lightning has moved on, but the potential for new wildfires is far from done.

The region's stormy weather is expected to push eastward after today, but hot weather is expected to follow, with high temperatures of more than 100 degrees forecast for Medford Saturday through Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

This follows three consecutive days of red flag warnings, when thousands of lightning strikes struck the dry terrain across multiple counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Jackson County escaped the brunt of the storm action, with 23 lightning strikes recorded between 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Weather Service said. The same number was recorded during a 24-hour period Monday to Tuesday. Klamath County was slammed with 872 strikes during the same time period, weather officials said. Siskiyou County saw 450 strikes.

The Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest District continues to patrol areas where lightning touched down in Jackson County, a majority of which was in the northeastern portion of the county in the Butte Falls and Prospect areas, according ODF public information officer Melissa Cano. Three strikes also touched down near Ashland.

On Tuesday, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest raised the fire danger level to "high" because of the ongoing hot temperatures and dry terrain. Nine new fires have been reported in that national forest. The 5-acre Bessie Creek fire, burning in the High Cascades district near the Crater Lake National Park boundary, is the largest of the new crop, according to public information officer Chamise Kramer.

Efforts to clamp down on the 1,600-acre Chetco Bar Fire, one of the largest active wildfires in the state, have ramped up. A national incident management team has been called in to take over fighting the blaze, which is burning on steep slopes in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness just north of the Chetco River. That fire, first reported July 12, was likely caused by a lightning strike in an area previously burned in the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

A map from the National Weather Service shows lightning strikes in the region between 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.