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Lightning sparks more small fires across region

 Posted: 3:25 PM August 12, 2013

Sizzling lightning storms dancing across northern California continue to leave fires burning on the mountainous dance floor, keeping firefighters scrambling to stamp them out.

More than 1,400 strikes have struck the Klamath National Forest since Wednesday with 42 fires found thus far, fire officials said.

With more lighting forecast for late today, more fires are expected to pop up, they add.

"We've been able to get on top of those fires so far — knock on wood," said forest spokesman Ken Sandusky, noting all the lightning-triggered fires remain small.

"But we also expect holdovers to develop," he said of lightning-caused fires which smolder for a few days before flaming up. "The lighting was wet. As things dry out, they will become active."

Each of the fires is staffed, including four uncontained fires on the Happy Camp/Oak Knoll Ranger District and another on the Scott-Salmon River Ranger District.

None of the fires are currently threatening any structures.

However, the main focus of fighting fires in that forest remains the 9,920-acre Salmon River Complex fire where more than 1,000 firefighters have been deployed. The human-caused fire burning since July 31 about four miles west of Sawyers Bar is 37-percent contained, official said.

"There is actually quite a bit of line around the fire but that's the amount the incident commander feels confident will hold," Sandusky explained, adding that secondary lines are also being carved in the extremely rough terrain.

Over on the Six Rivers National Forest, the largest fire is the Orleans Complex fire which has burned 9,092 acres in the Klamath River drainage. About 1,100 firefighters are assigned to the complex which is about 20 percent contained, officials said. That human-caused fire was also detected July 31.

However, 19 lightning-sparked fires have been found on that forest, spokeswoman Julie Ranieri said today.

Of those, eight lower elevation fires in the Trinity River drainage near Willow Creek have been contained, she said.

But the remainder are deep in a cluster known as the Corral Complex fire in the rugged Trinity Alps, she said.

"Those fires are burning in an area burned in 1999 where there are a lot of snags and downed logs," she said, noting that 69 firefighters have been sent to the wilderness area. "Firefighter safety is a big concern in that area."

Across the state line into Oregon, 10 new lighting fires were discovered on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest over the weekend. Smokejumpers, rappellers and hand crews with engines have been deployed to the fires, reported acting forest spokeswoman Erica Hupp.

The largest is a 4-acre blaze near Bolan Lake about 15 miles southeast of Cave Junction in the Wild Rivers Ranger District. The other fires, including four in the High Cascades Ranger District, are less than a acre, Hupp said.

Aircraft will assist the firefighters on the ground with bucket drops if visibility permits, Hupp said.

Although the thunder storms have included isolated rain showers, the fire danger throughout the region remains extreme with no change in fire restrictions, officials stressed.

— Paul Fattig

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