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Northern California bears brunt of lightning storms

Federal and state fire officials were able to keep a handful of lightning-sparked wildfires at bay Monday. Now they’re in wait-and-see mode for any holdovers that might pop up.

“Fingers crossed,” U.S. Forest Service public information officer Margueritte Hickman said Tuesday.

The primary blaze on Forest Service land was a 1/4-acre fire in the Carberry Creek area west of Applegate Lake. It was contained by early Monday afternoon, and crews will continue to check on it periodically. The Oregon Department of Forestry was a bit busier, responding to a 13-acre fire on the Oregon-California border near Pinehurst.

“They’ll be checking it for the next three days, but for the time being, it has a fire line around it,” said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou.

The agency responded to four other lightning fires — all smaller than 1/2 acre. One on Obenchain Mountain near Butte Falls was snuffed at three-tenths of an acre, same as another fire in the Clark’s Creek area near Lost Creek Lake. Two others affected single trees, Ballou said.

“It wasn’t really a big day,” he said. “It was more time spent looking than fighting fire.”

Back-to-back days of nighttime lightning in the region resulted in 324 strikes Sunday, followed by 536 Monday. The overwhelming majority stabbed into Siskiyou County, California.

“I’d be really surprised if there’s not a few (new fires) in the coming days,” National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Smith said of western Siskiyou County. “We’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out down there.”

Either way, smoke has returned to the Rogue Valley, most of it from the 70,622-acre July Complex raging in eastern Siskiyou County and Modoc County in California, according to InciWeb, a federal website that provides data on large wildfires. The bulk of the complex is from the 67,789-acre Caldwell fire, which had no containment as of Tuesday morning, fire public information officer Bob Pool said. There were 1,583 personnel assigned to that fire.

The smoke pulverized air quality for parts of Klamath County Tuesday, dropping Klamath Falls to “unhealthy” levels and moving Chiloquin to “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Air Quality Index. Ashland, Medford and Applegate all dipped to “moderate.”

Much of Klamath County was under a red flag advisory Tuesday due to ongoing hot, dry weather and another round of thunderstorms in the forecast, according to the National Weather Service.

Triple digits are in the forecast again for parts of the Rogue Valley until Friday, with expected highs of 102 and 100 in Medford Wednesday and Thursday, Smith said.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

Mail Tribune file photo