The July 15th lightning fires, one year later

MEDFORD, Ore. — One year after thousands of lightning strikes sparked hundreds of fires, the impact is still being felt today.

The fires kicked off the worst of southern Oregon and northern California’s 2018 fire season.”It was a challenging day for everyone,” said Oregon Department of Forestry Public Information Officer Natalie Weber. “We were kind of sent all over the place.”

Fire crews hunted down the hundreds of fires sparked by lightning. The Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District said at one point they were tracking 56 fires with their detection system, they said the technology behind it was a big asset.

“It was very helpful to have eyes on all of those fires,” Weber said, “to be able to prioritize where we’re gonna send crews.” The storms ignited the Klondike, Taylor Creek, Miles and Garner Complex fires.

“It was just…devastating,” said Jackson County Commissioner Bob Strosser, “with the fires that it caused, the resources we didn’t have to deal with it.”

While the flames scorched hundreds of thousands of acres, Strosser’s biggest concern is the smoke that choked the community for months. “Because of the PM2.5 particles, the very very small particles that are ingested get into your lungs, respiratory system,” he said.

Strosser said there was little progress made in the 2019 legislative session to address resources and funding. Being halfway through July—he hopes that doesn’t come back to hurt us.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that we make it through fire season,” Strosser said.

ODF said while they’re geared up for anything, they’ve had a relatively quiet season so far. This year there have been 74 fires on ODF protected land in Jackson and Josephine Counties. The total amount of acres burned in those is under 17.

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