Lightning strikes are expected starting Wednesday, bringing the chance for more wildfire starts across parts of Jackson and Josephine counties.
The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch warning of thunderstorms over parched forestlands from 11 a.m. Wednesday through 5 p.m. Thursday.
The storms could bring heavy rains, especially Wednesday night into Thursday, as a low-pressure front pushes moist air in off the Central California coast.
"Early on, it might be not as wet, but with Wednesday, Thursday, much wetter," said meteorologist Chuck Glaser. "Thursday's probably the wettest day of all."
A similar storm system last week hammered the region with about 1,800 lightning strikes. Some small fires roared to life, but fire crews extinguished them quickly. About 150 of those strikes peppered Jackson County, with most confined to the northwest corner.
While the potential for new wildfires looms, fire crews are still at work containing three large wildfires in the region. They were started by lightning July 26.
As of Monday morning, the Whiskey fire near Tiller was 65 percent contained and had burned through nearly 17,000 acres, according to fire officials. Crews continue to work on a fire line on the southeast flank along U.S. Forest Service Road No. 2925. Fire officials originally had estimated the fire could be contained by Tuesday, but that's been pushed back a few days because extremely smoky conditions hindered aerial operations.
"It all depends on the weather. We're hoping we can get that fire in there today and start mopping up. We're just trying to get that line nice and deep," said Pam Sichting of the Umpqua National Forest and spokeswoman for Oregon Interagency Incident Management Team No. 3.
The Douglas Complex, seven miles outside Glendale, has burned more than 48,300 acres and is at 76 percent containment. Officials still estimate full containment by Sept. 1. On Monday, the closures of Lower Grave Creek Road, Lower Wolf Creek Road and connecting roads were lifted.
The stubborn Big Windy Complex remains 20 percent contained. The fire burning near the Lower Rogue River has consumed nearly 20,000 acres. It has a Sept. 1 estimated containment date.
Jackson County air quality continues to be impacted because of the smoke drifting into the valley. Data from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows Medford has seen "moderate" air quality every day since Aug. 10.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.