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Lighting starts fires across Jackson, Josephine counties

More than a dozen are burning, but without much intensity, officials say
 Posted: 2:00 AM May 07, 2013

Wildland firefighters are busy mopping up more than a dozen wildfires sparked by a lightning storm which rumbled through Jackson and Josephine counties Sunday evening.

"They are not burning with a great deal of intensity," said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District, which covers the two counties.

Unless more rain arrives soon, fire season could begin by this weekend, he said.

"Spring fires usually start popping up in late May," he added. "To have them come in the first part of May is definitely unusual. We have found 13 so far but we expect to find others."

The largest blaze covers about five acres in the Elk Creek drainage just north of Trail, he said.

"It burned pretty good when it was in brush and grass, but when it hit the shadowy forest area it just laid down," he said. "Most of the fires we have are small. Some are no more than a single tree."

Statewide, ODF battled seven fires over the weekend that burned larger areas than is typical for early May.

The largest was near Canyonville, a 180-acre blaze named for Shively Creek. It was reported in rough terrain, burning in logging slash and old-growth timber.

The department said some rain Sunday helped slow its spread.

Firefighters said some of the blazes spread from burning debris piles and asked landowners to take precautions, such as having fire tools and a garden hose at the ready.

In Central Oregon, firefighters contained a fire that started Saturday when winds knocked over a power line near La Pine.

The Umpqua National Forest reported a handful of small weekend fires, two caused by humans and four by lightning Sunday.

While Jackson and Josephine county fared better than other areas of the state, local firefighters are gearing up for an early fire season, Ballou said.

"If we don't get much rain out of this weather pattern, then we will be looking at fire season starting soon, perhaps by this weekend or earlier," he said. "It could be a long, hot summer with the potential for large fires throughout the region."

Local residents are being urged to be extra cautious with any activity that could spark a wildfire.

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