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2,300 lightning strikes hit Northern Calif. and Southern Oregon over weekend

Crews plan to closely monitor Applegate, Prospect and areas near Cave Junction for holdover fires from the lightning.

Posted: Aug 12, 2019 6:08 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Right now, fire crews are patrolling areas that saw lightning over the weekend. They're making sure there are no holdover fires. On friday and saturday, the National Weather Service recorded more than 2,300 lightning strikes in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Officials say this weekend's lightning could have ended much differently if the storms had less precipitation. 

Charles Smith, National Weather Service official, said, "In general we saw a significant amount of lightning compared to a typical summer day or multiple days. The typical summer day it's more like 200 to 500 as an average."

This weekend was the first time our region has seen this much lightning since last summer, but last summer, when this much lightning came through, multiple fires started and got out of control quickly. The maps seen in the above video show last year on July 15th and July 16th (the day several wildfires started) and a map from Friday and Saturday this weekend. Both maps show thousands of lightning strikes, but what makes this year different?

Smith said this is the first one where we saw a lot of lightning during the peak of fire season. ODF responded to 4 lightning-caused fires.
Cal Fire responded to 8 and the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest responded to 14.

Eric Hensel is the fire management officer for the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. Hensel had 400 firefighters on standby this weekend. That's four times as many as usual.

"There were fire-starts across the area, but the fire agencies did a good job sniffing those out right away," Smith said.

Hensel said, "We were able to jump on those fires really fast with early detection and aggressive initial attack and put most of them out at 2/10th of an acre or less."

And the biggest difference of all, this year we were lucky - the lightning came with some moisture.

"That saved us a lot, we had a lotta good precipitation with the lightning that came," Hensel said. "So we didn't have near as many fire-starts as we had anticipated."

This week, Hensel said crews will continue to monitor for holdover fires in three areas that saw the most lightning. Detection flights, look-out towers and ground personnel will be used to monitor Applegate, Prospect and areas near Cave Junction.

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