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FireWatch: Thunderstorms bring hundreds of lightning strikes to southern Oregon, sparking dozens of fires

Forest Service officials said that there were about 700 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes during these storms, and crews have responded to dozens of fires already.

Posted: Aug 2, 2021 10:42 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2021 6:23 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Fire crews were kept busy over the weekend after a series of thunderstorms peppered southern Oregon with hundreds of lightning strikes, sparking dozens of confirmed fires and leaving the potential for more to emerge over time.

Officials with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said that there were about 700 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes throughout the region on Sunday, landing both within the federal forest and on the state, county, and private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

RRSNF said that it responded to 16 fires within the national forest in tandem with ODF and the Coos Forest Protective Association. The largest priority was the Bear Camp Fire, which they hit with a Type 2 Initial Attack Crew and two engines. Crews were able to build a handline around the 4 or 5-acre fire, and about 40 percent of the fire has hose line around it. Firefighters remain on the scene, working toward containment.

Crews from ODF responded to about 50 separate fires in the wake of those thunderstorms, working through the night to find and extinguish the reported starts. Of those fires, 35 were confirmed to be active. The agency said that 20 have been extinguished, 15 are in various stages of response, but the majority are fully lined and in the mop-up stage.

Because of the quick response, the Bear Camp Fire remains the largest fire in the region. The smaller Buck Rock Fire north of Trail is considered 30 percent lined and 5 percent contained. The Gap Fire within the Ashland Watershed has been kept at one-tenth of an acre after an aggressive attack on Sunday. Ashland officials say that it has been lined and extinguished.

Natalie Weber, the spokesperson for Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District said, "The first one that came it was the North Fork Anderson Creek Fire, and that one was probably the largest that we had for a while. We sent a number of engines as well as a water tender and resources from district 5 to that one. And then the Buck Rock Fire broke out after that, north of Trail and we sent out about the same amount of resources to that."

Despite the sheer number of fires discovered, no homes are currently considered threatened.

For both agencies, the priority now is reconnaissance. Aircraft crews are flying over southern Oregon to look for any new signs of smoke. ODF warned that more fires will likely emerge as temperatures heat up Monday and throughout the week.

“After a storm like this, it’s important to quickly and efficiently suppress these fires when they’re small, not only to protect our communities, but to free up firefighting resources to provide aggressive initial attack on the next fire,” said Dan Quinones, Fire Staff Officer for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

RRSNF said that a cold front is in the forecast, and it will bring no rain, low humidity, and a Haines Index of 5-6 — indicating a high potential for erratic fire behavior and growth.

"This forecast is concerning to firefighters as holdover lightning fires can be found days and weeks after the storm passes," the agency said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 357526

Reported Deaths: 4284
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55810707
Washington38782324
Marion36837455
Clackamas29779309
Lane27744302
Jackson23059310
Deschutes20336125
Umatilla14492150
Linn12911131
Douglas12118243
Josephine9384196
Yamhill8715113
Klamath8020119
Polk737381
Malheur563677
Benton549431
Coos503794
Columbia382644
Jefferson376052
Lincoln319939
Union319549
Crook291846
Wasco288841
Clatsop244328
Baker203529
Tillamook196932
Hood River192837
Morrow185023
Curry180625
Harney113927
Grant100013
Lake93912
Wallowa68612
Gilliam1544
Sherman1523
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 4850807

Reported Deaths: 71341
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148419226540
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3673614183
San Bernardino3586775692
Orange3242885562
Sacramento1596362309
Kern1463481648
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921400
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen754347
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
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Strong storm system brings gusty winds and heavy rain throughout the day Sunday
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