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Lightning sparks a dozen Southern Oregon fires

Specialists watch for new fire starts at the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District’s Detection Center. [ODF photo]

Dozens of lightning strikes in Southern Oregon sparked at least a dozen wildfires Thursday night, including one in the Applegate that struck close to Sanctuary One, a nonprofit animal rescue farm.

Firefighters Friday were working five fires caused by lighting on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lands and another eight fires on land in the Southwest District of the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The largest of the fires was the Maple Dell fire burning on federal forestland in the Siskiyou Mountain District. It was estimated Friday at 10 acres, which included several spot fires. Resources battling the fire included three engines, one water tender, one Type 2 initial attack helicopter crew and a Type 1 helicopter.

At about 4:30 p.m. Friday, the Forest Service sent out an update saying the fire was fully lined and had a retardant line around the fire as well. Firefighters were working to put a hose line around the fire.

Three other fires in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest were estimated at a quarter acre or smaller. They stemmed from roughly 35 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in Southern Oregon Thursday, according to a news release from the Forest Service.

In response to a Red Flag Warning issued by the National Weather Service in Medford for Friday, the Forest Service and ODF Southwest Oregon District said they would aggressively monitor and respond to fires using aerial reconnaissance and the multi-camera ODF Detection Center.

ODF saw eight fires Thursday that largely struck the Applegate Valley. The largest was the one-acre Palmer fire, which crews had fully lined as of Friday morning.

A fire that sparked on Little Grayback Mountain was behind Sanctuary One’s animal care farm, according to a Friday release from the nonprofit.

The release stated that the nonprofit’s staff, volunteers and interns had begun “the first stage of wildfire evacuation preparation,” but the fire was contained owing to the efforts of ODF’s team of ground firefighters, aircraft and seven smoke jumpers.

“We’re thankful our local firefighters had the resources to immediately attack multiple fires last night,” Sanctuary One Executive Director Megan Flowers said in the release, adding that it helped “save Sanctuary One and many of our Applegate neighbors.”

The nonprofit says it regularly trains its staff and volunteers in wildfire protocols during the spring and summer months, but the nonprofit said its truck transmission started to fail this week.

“Luckily it was at the farm as we await parts, but it shows how critical reliable equipment is to a care farm surrounded by forest land,” Flowers said in the release.