Lightning fires not a threat

Lightning sparked about a dozen small fires Sunday across Jackson County, sending fire crews on the chase from Butte Falls to the east and to the Lost Creek Lake and Round Top areas to the north.

The known fires, all believed to be extinguished or under control late Sunday, were between less than 2 acres and 10 acres east and west of Highway 62 in north and northeast Jackson County.

There was a slight chance of rain and thunderstorms again early this morning in Jackson County starting at about 5 a.m. and continuing through the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

"None of them got to be any problem," said Brian Ballou of the Oregon Department of Forestry. "We were able to get fire lines up."

Four helicopters swarmed overhead across the county and bulldozers charged in to extinguish flames, while a reconnaissance plane sought out more blazes, Ballou said.

The fires started before noon and were touched off through late afternoon when the weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning.

A fire crew reported seeing nickel-sized hail at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday three miles east of Howard Prairie, said weather service meteorologist Mike Stavish.

The criteria for a thunderstorm warning, which came in the form of an alarm and red band on TV stations and the weather service's radio station, are 58 mph winds and nickel-size hail, Stavish said.

"We don't issue them very often in our neck of the woods," Stavish said.

The fires were clustered in areas between Round Top and Lost Creek Lake to the north; the Lake Creek area on Highway 140 directly south of Lost Creek Lake; and between Butte Falls and Shady Cove to the east.

The largest was about 10 acres, five miles north of Lost Creek area, Ballou said.

"It actually hit farther to the west than what was forecast," Ballou said. "The forecast had been for the Southern Cascades."

There also were at least eight fires in Josephine County, where the lightning struck earlier Sunday, he said.

There were at least a dozen fires ignited by lightning Friday and Saturday in the Rogue Siskiyou National Forest, including a 20-acre fire at Horse Mountain 15 miles north of Cave Junction in Josephine County, said Paul Galloway, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management. Firefighters continued late Sunday to combat some of those blazes.

"We are expecting more fires from the new strikes (Sunday)," Galloway said. "We will continue to patrol the area looking for new smoke."

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