Recent thunderstorms start small fires, aid crews fighting larger ones

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Recent thunderstorms that swept over southwest Oregon over the weekend ended up helping firefighters for now, the Oregon Department of Forestry said.

Near the end of July, the Panther Gulch Fire started in the Applegate Valley. It reached 65 acres in size. A few days later, the East Evans Creek Fire sent smoke over the Rogue Valley north of Gold Hill, quickly growing to 155 acres.

With the looming threat of thunderstorms predicted to hit the area starting August 9, crews were poised to fight multiple potential fires.

When the storms hit, lighting sparked a total of eight known wildfires in Jackson and Josephine Counties. However, heavy rains helped crews keep each of those fires at a fraction of an acre in size. And ultimately, the moisture that came with the weather system allowed crews to boost containment levels on the Panther Gulch Fire and East Evans Creek Fire. Those fires are nearly 100% contained.

ODF said as the weather continues to warm up after the storm, the risk of “holdover fires” persists. Holdovers can occur when lightning strikes cause a smoldering fire which may go unnoticed until it grows into a larger fire during drier conditions.

Firefighters remain ready to respond to any fires that may flare up in the coming days, ODF said.

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