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MEDFORD, Ore. — Firefighting agencies across Southern Oregon and Northern California reported dozens of small fire starts on Thursday morning after severe thunderstorms brought flurries of lightning strikes through the region.
By 1 p.m.., the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) reported 18 confirmed fires between Jackson and Josephine counties, with six more reported fires awaiting investigation. Five small fires had already been extinguished.
There were upwards of 740 lightning strikes across the region beginning on Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
"Thankfully, with the rain we received overnight, the fires have remained small, and three fires have been extinguished by crews," the agency said.
Most of the lightning strikes were found on the east side of Jackson County, ranging from the state border to Grizzly Peak and Butte Falls. Other fire starts were confirmed in Josephine County between Applegate Valley, Deer Creek, Sexton Mountain and Wolf Creek.
"There are still a number of reported fires that crews have not yet made access to," ODF said.
All of the fires that crews had responded to were small — the largest at just a half-acre on Sexton Mountain. However, most of the fires were found in remote areas, and further unreported fires could have the opportunity to grow throughout the day.
U.S. Forest Service officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said that they had found two confirmed fires in the Forest, with crews heading out to both. They were also following up on five "smoke checks," or more unconfirmed reports of fire.
"Interagency Dispatchers are busily responding to calls from resources as they work to respond to such reports across the Forest," USFS said. "As smoke checks are confirmed, appropriate resources will be dispatched to respond and suppress these starts."
Cal Fire reported upwards of two dozen confirmed fires since Wednesday evening, with the largest reaching about two acres in the Butte Valley area.
"Due to Siskiyou County being under a Red Flag Warning and with an abundant amount of lightning, Cal Fire ordered three strike teams of engines and two strike teams of hand crews," the agency said.
Firefighting agencies were bracing for the potential of further thunderstorms throughout the day on Thursday — and higher risk of fire.
"The storm will be mostly wet this afternoon, but lightning can occur outside of the rain core," Cal Fire said. "A risk of new fire starts will remain high."
"Reports will be ongoing throughout the morning and afternoon, as temperatures increase and resources continue to patrol and report," USFS said.