More lightning could be on the way

More lightning could split the skies starting Wednesday into Thursday, bringing the chance for more wildfire starts across parts of Jackson and Josephine counties.

A fire weather watch is primed to kick off at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, and should extend to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23.

The National Weather Service issues fire weather watches when thunderstorms are expected over areas of dry vegetation. The storms are also expected to bring some heavy rains, especially Wednesday night into Thursday.

A similar storm system last week hammered the region with about 1,800 strikes. Some small fires roared to life, but fire crews extinguished them quickly. About 150 of those strikes peppered Jackson County, with most confined to the northwest corner.

While the potential for new wildfires looms, fire crews are still at work containing three large wildfires in the region. They were started by lightning July 26.

As of this morning, the Whiskey Fire near Tiller was 65 percent contained and had burned through nearly 17,000 acres, according to fire officials. Crews continue to work on a fire line on the southeast flank along U.S. Forest Service Road No. 2925. Fire officials originally had estimated the fire could be contained by Tuesday, Aug. 20, but that's been pushed back a few days because extremely smoky conditions hindered aerial operations.

"It all depends on the weather. We're hoping we can get that fire in there today and start mopping up. We're just trying to get that line nice and deep," said Pam Sichting of the Umpqua National Forest and spokeswoman for Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team No. 3.

The Douglas Complex, seven miles outside Glendale, has burned more than 48,300 acres and is at 76 percent containment. Officials still estimate full containment by Sept. 1.

The stubborn Big Windy Complex remains 20 percent contained. The fire burning near the Lower Rogue River has consumed more than 18,000 acres, spurred by increased winds.

— Ryan Pfeil

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