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Lightning sparks fires in Applegate Valley

Lightning sparked two fires in the Applegate Valley Sunday, drawing more than 160 firefighters within the first two hours of smoke being spotted.

The fires, dubbed the Little Applegate Complex, included the Little Applegate fire, burning just north of the 6500 block of Little Applegate Road southwest of Talent, and the Yale West fire, south of Little Applegate Road.

Both fires were contained, the Yale West fire at 3/4 of an acre and the Little Applegate fire at 6 acres. Crews completed the mop-up process around 1 p.m. Monday and cleared the area.

The Little Applegate fire was reported Sunday evening in an area where lightning had struck. Between 6 and 11 p.m., 113 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were recorded in southwest Oregon, with 10 in Jackson County, according to the National Weather Service. The bulk of the strikes occurred in northern Klamath and Lake counties.

Oregon Department of Forestry crews flocked to the scene of the Little Applegate fire, and while en route, crews spotted the Yale West fire. Responders included 15 engines, seven hand crews, two water tenders, a bulldozer, a large air tanker and multiple helicopters. Crews from the Applegate Valley Fire Department and the Bureau of Land Management also responded.

The fires ignited hours before the fire danger on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties increased to “extreme.” As of 12:01 a.m. Monday, the use of power-driven equipment on public lands is prohibited, as is grinding and welding metal, mowing dead or dry grass and using power saws. Previously, “high” fire danger restrictions barred debris burning, smoking and fireworks on ODF-protected forest lands.

Other fires

Firefighters also continued Monday to work toward full containment on the East Evans fire, burning about 9 miles west of Shady Cove since Friday. The 300-acre fire was 27% contained Monday.

Some crew members and resources from the East Evans fire were diverted to the Little Applegate Complex, but 13 crews, 10 engines, 10 water tenders, a bulldozer and “numerous” tree fallers remained, according to an ODF press release.

Level 3 “go” evacuation notifications remained in effect for 11 homes on East Evans Creek Road (18721 to 18998), with Level 1 “get ready” notifications still in effect for 18 other homes (18818-20252), according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.

A wildland firefighter extinguishes flames on the Little Applegate Complex. (Photo from Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Facebook)