More fires spotted in national forest

The five new "sleeper" fires discovered Tuesday in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, apparently sparked by lightning storms two weeks ago, likely won't be the last to wake up, says forest spokesman Paul Galloway.

"It's not unusual to have these fires popping up," he said, adding that more small lightning-caused fires are likely to show up as the weather becomes warmer and drier.

"When those storms came through, they brought precipitation with them," he explained. "When lightning strikes, it starts a fire, but with the precipitation those fires might be down in the tree bark or in the duff. The fires stay there until there is enough heat and air to start up."

The National Weather Service office at the Medford airport calls for temperatures in the 80s and 90s through early next week in Jackson and eastern Josephine counties.

The five new fires — three on the High Cascades Ranger District and two on the Wild Rivers Ranger District — were detected while they were still small and quickly snuffed out, he said.

Since lightning storms pounded the region on Aug. 1, some 85 wildfires have popped up in the forest, although most of them have been extinguished.

The largest was the 157-acre Golden Stairs fire just west of Union Creek in the High Cascades Ranger District where fire crews completed burnout operations Monday, looping a secure fire line around the blaze, he said. Road and trail closures will remain in place until the fire is completely controlled.

Demobilization of the fire camp at Joseph Stewart State Park at Lost Creek Lake is continuing as firefighters complete the mop up stage of putting out fires in the area, he said.

"They're mopping up now," he said. "We were fortunate to have a combination of both ample resources available and precipitation that came with the storms."

The forest currently has ample fire crews, engines and aircraft to respond to any new fires that may pop up, he said.

Meanwhile, reconnaissance flight crews and fire lookouts will keep their eyes peeled for more "sleeper" fires, officials said.

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