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Lightning sparks 9 fires in region

A storm system that rolled through the region on Wednesday delivered more than 1,200 lightning strikes and sparked at least nine fires found so far, fire and weather officials reported.

Southwestern Oregon and extreme northern California received 1,259 lightning strikes over the 24-hour period that ended at 8 a.m. Thursday, according to data collected by the National Weather Service. Most of the strikes were in northern Josephine and Douglas counties and occurred around 11 p.m. Wednesday. An earlier series of lightning strikes occurred around 8 a.m. Wednesday in the region, said meteorologist Sven Nelaimischkies.

"There hasn't been a lot of reports of (lightning) starting fires but I imagine we will get quite a few," Nelaimischkies said.

Oregon Department of Forestry fire prevention specialist Brian Ballou said his agency expects to find more lightning-caused fires and plans to operate reconnaissance flights throughout the next two days to find them.

ODF crews have found at least nine fires likely caused by lightning strikes in the area over the past 24 hours, he said. The biggest burned about two and a half acres on Sloan Mountain in Josephine County and was under control as of 10 a.m. Thursday.

"It's one of those deals where we just expect them," Ballou said, "We wait and just see what plays out."

A preliminary report released by Crater Lake National Park said that lightning had started multiple fires on the park's west side, and all but two had been suppressed by about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

A press release from the U.S. Forest Service said six fires were known to be burning on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest but none was larger than a quarter of an acre and all had been contained or extinguished by 2 p.m. Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, no new or out-of-control fires had been reported.