Lightning starts new fires, all small

Lightning sparked five new fires Thursday night in the High Cascades Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"But they are all small — we're getting them staffed up," forest spokesman Paul Galloway said this morning. "I don't see any problem fires on the horizon right now, but we'll see what the next few days bring with 'smokes' that might pop up."

Fire lookouts and reconnaissance flights will be keeping an eye out for smoke rising from smoldering fires sparked by lightning strikes, he said.

The storm struck the forest with 180 lightning strikes, most of them in the Ashland Creek watershed and the ranger district, he said.

But it also dumped a lot of rain in some areas, including three inches in Ashland, according to the National Weather Service.

"The rain helped where it occurred but it was pretty spotty," Galloway said.

Meanwhile, firefighters continued to mop up eight fires ignited by Wednesday night's thunderstorm in the Applegate Valley, he said.

The Oregon Department of Forestry was busy this morning snuffing out 11 fires caused by the two thunderstorms in Jackson and Josephine counties. That agency protects U.S. Bureau of Land Management woodlands as well as private, state and county forest, brush and grasslands.

Most of those fires were in the Applegate Valley with the largest being two acres, according to Brian Ballou, spokesman for the ODF's Southwest Oregon District.

Heavy rain and hail in the Ashland area helped fire crews keep a lightning-caused fire along Butler Creek to just two acres Thursday night, he said.

However, like Galloway, he expects more smoldering fires to pop up in the coming days.

More than 600 lightning strikes hit Jackson County during Thursday's storm, he said.

The National Weather Service predicts only a slight chance of a thunderstorm in the region this afternoon.

— Paul Fattig

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