UPDATED: Lightning sparks new fires, shuts off power to homes

Update 11:50 a.m.

Lightning strikes caused power outages at the Applegate and Provolt Pacific Power substations this morning, cutting off power to 4,060 customers.

The outages were originally reported at 9:34 a.m. Power crews completed repairs on the Applegate substation at 11:20 a.m., dropping that number 1,405. That number is still in effect, with customers along Highway 238, the Williams Highway, and Watergap, Kincaid and Cedar Flat roads still without electricity.

Another strike caused an outage for 978 customers between O'Brien and Cave Junction. Pacific Power officials said all customers should be restored by 2 p.m.

Update 11:25 a.m.

Six additional lightning-sparked fires ignited on U.S. Forest Service lands overnight into this morning, with one east of Applegate Lake reaching 20 acres.

That blaze is being called the Iron Knob fire and is being fought by a 20-person crew. Aerial drops are on hold because of stormy weather conditions.

Additional strikes were reported in the Cascades and Siskiyous, sparking fires of varying sizes between one and six acres, U.S. Forest Service officials reported.

"They're still an issue," said Bob Gale, spokesman for the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

9:45 a.m.

Nearly 20 lightning strikes were reported around Jackson County early this morning, one of them igniting a grass fire outside Butte Falls that grew to one-tenth of an acre before being extinguished, fire and weather officials said.

No additional lightning-sparked blazes have been reported at the Big Windy Fire Complex, adding to the good news for fire crews as they progressed to 30 percent containment.

"It was a good day yesterday," said Howard Hunter, public information officer at the Big Windy, a lightning-sparked fire burning 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass since July 26. "We've dodged a bullet so far."

Fire officials said crews made significant progress on the western containment line and that work will continue near Howard Creek today. The steep terrain will make for difficult work.

"There's no walking out from there. We have to raft out," Hunter said. "It's a tricky place."

More than 22,500 acres have burned at the Big Windy. The date of full containment has been pushed back to Sept. 7, six days later than the original Sept. 1 estimate.

Oregon Department of Forestry officials said they are prepared for additional lightning-caused fires throughout the day, beefing up their response force with a bulldozer and five additional engines.

"We're supposed to get lightning throughout the day," said Caitlin Goins, ODF spokeswoman.

Some northern California communities, including Alturas, have seen between one-half and three-fourths of an inch of rain in the past 24 hours, but no significant accumulations had been documented by 8 a.m. for Jackson County, despite some morning rains. Thunderstorm activity and precipitation are expected to continue through the day into the late afternoon hours.

— Ryan Pfeil

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