KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. --
UPDATE: The Ward Fire is now 34% contained. It's burning 1,301 acres. Weather conditions helped crews continue to make solid progress yesterday.
John Pellissier, Operations Section Chief, summed it up during the briefing as night shift firefighters prepared to go out, saying “Today we had a good day of work, building off good work last night.”
Today, crews will improve the firelines and continue mop up deeper into the burned area.
The southern flank of the fire is on a steep canyon rim, over- looking the Klamath River. Fire managers seized an opportunity yesterday to secure the extremely steep slopes below the canyon rim. Night crews avoided the steep terrain in observance of safety, and crews today will begin improving the line along the southern edge of the fire.
(Updated 8/13/19 at 3:25 a.m.)
UPDATE: The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership says that rainfall on the Ward Fire over the weekend has helped to impede the fire's growth.
A dozer was able to help line the northern part of the fire. Firefighters were able to mop up 30 feet in the fire line on the north side.
Today crews are focused on securing, improving and holding fire lines along the north part of the fire. The southern part of the fire is overlooking the Klamath River. The Fire Management Partnership says it is looking for opportunities to hold and secure the southern perimeter.
Crews will also continue to look for and put out any spot fires that may start in the forested area around the fire.
(Updated 8/11/19 at 10 a.m.)
UPDATE: The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) says rain helped with the fire last night.
Crews worked overnight trying to put out the fire. This morning rain helped complete a "double bladed dozer line on the north, west and east sides of the fire." said SCOFMP on it's Facebook Page. The south side of the fire is on the edge of the Klamath River.
SCOFMP says fire activity is calm right now. The fire is still 1500 acres. An incident management team is taking over this morning.
We will continue to update you on new information we get.
(Updated 8/10/19 at 10 a.m.)
UPDATE: The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) and Lakeview Interagency Fire Center said the Ward Fire now burns more than 1,500 acres. It is located 18 miles southwest of Klamath Falls. The Ward Fire is burning on private and BLM land in grass and juniper. Crews are concerned that industry timber lands could be affected.
Crews from ODF, the US Forest Service (USFS), BLM, Cal Fire and private crews are working to get this fire out. More ground and air resources are on the way.
The Oregon State Police Department (OSP) is no longer restricting traffic on Highway 66 west of Ward Road.
ODF has ordered an incident management team. It will arrive tomorrow to help support crews on this fire.
There are other fires around Pelican Butte, Chase Mountain, and Fourmile Lake in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.
(Updated 8/9/19 at 11 p.m.)
INITIAL REPORT: While most of the lightning-caused fires reported across southern Oregon and northern California were small and manageable when fire crews arrived, one in Klamath County grew above 300 acres in a matter of just a few hours.
The Ward Fire sparked to life about 18 miles southwest of Klamath Falls. The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) said that there were multiple ground and air resources on the scene, with more on the way.
"Fire is burning on private and BLM ground. Resources on scene include Oregon Department of Forestry, Forest Service, BLM and private industry," the agency said.
Troopers from the Oregon State Police were restricting traffic on Highway 66 west of Ward Road, SCOFMP said.
The agency said that there were a number of other fires in the mountains west and northwest of Klamath Falls — around Pelican Butte, Chase Mountain, and Fourmile Lake. Fire crews were on the way out to those fires.
Soon after severe thunderstorms rolled into northern California and southern Oregon, firefighters started getting reports of lightning-caused wildfires.
By 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, details on those fires and the response were still slim — but multiple fire agencies had been prepared for precisely this situation after paying close attention to weather reports.
"Cal Fire is responding to multiple lightning fires in the Scott Valley and Copco area," the Cal Fire Siskiyou Unit posted.
"Firefighters are responding to multiple lightning wildfires this afternoon on the Klamath National Forest. This is a developing situation," the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) posted for the Klamath National Forest in western Siskiyou County.
Just before 5 p.m., USFS issued an update identifying four separate fires — the Scott and Snag fires in the Salmon/Scott district, and the West Hamburg and Dry fires in the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll district.
"All are less than 0.5 acres and have resources making their way into them," the agency said. "Rain was observed with these storms. All fires are staffed."
Staff with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) were monitoring their smoke detection cameras for signs that lightning had provoked fires. By 5 p.m., however, the reports were optimistic.
"While Jackson and Josephine Counties both received a fair amount of lightning strikes this afternoon, our crews have only put out a few small fires," the agency said.
ODF said that most of the fires were in the Applegate area, but the largest was only .01 of an acre. The agency said that it would be sending a helicopter to scout the area in an attempt to spot any fires that had gone unnoticed.
"Fires can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to spread from a lightning strike," the agency said. "Updates will be posted as information becomes available."
This is a developing story and NewsWatch 12 will be updating it with more details as they emerge.
[EDIT: Article updated 8/9/19 at 5:45 p.m.]