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Thunderstorms forecast through Friday

Thunderstorms are forecast for Southern Oregon through Friday, and the National Weather Service is warning area residents to be ready for the possibility of lightning-sparked fires.

Lightning has already been crackling in recent days. At least 125 air-to-ground strikes occurred in Jackson County Sunday and Monday, weather officials reported. Oregon Department of Forestry maps show the activity was clustered around the Ashland watershed, an area just west of Wagner Butte, portions of the Greensprings, Howard Prairie Lake and Hyatt Lake. 

On Sunday night, lightning ignited five small fires in southern Jackson County. The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said none of the fires exceeded one-tenth of an acre in size. Three of the fires started in the Ashland watershed, and two others ignited just north of Dutchman Peak. 

Fire crews had contained the blazes by Monday afternoon, but the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release that additional fires could be discovered, and aerial reconnaissance is continuing in the area for new starts.  

On Monday, the Oregon Department of Forestry instituted a red flag warning from 1 to 11 p.m. for eastern Jackson and Douglas counties, along with Klamath and Lake counties and a swath of Northern California that reaches almost to Mount Shasta.

On the bright side, the recent string of triple-digit temperatures seems to be breaking, at least temporarily. Highs are expected to hover in the high 80s and low 90s this week, with nighttime lows anticipated in the 60s. The area's long spate of triple-digit weather hung on through Monday, when the thermometer hit 101 degrees late in the afternoon.

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

Clouds begin to form over the Rogue Valley late Monday as Brad Earl of Medford pedals up the access road to Prescott Park. Clouds over the area may carry lightning in the coming days, forecasters say. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell