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Predicted storm rolls in with lightning and rain

 Posted: 9:45 AM August 22, 2013

Nearly 20 lightning strikes were reported around Jackson County early this morning, one of them igniting a grass fire outside Butte Falls that only grew to one-tenth of an acre before being extinguished, fire and weather officials.

No additional lightning-sparked blazes have been reported at the Big Windy Fire Complex, adding to the good news for fire crews as they progressed to 30 percent containment.

"It was a good day yesterday," said Howard Hunter, public information officer at the Big Windy, a lightning-sparked fire burning 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass since July 26. "We've dodged a bullet so far."

Fire officials said crews made significant progress on the western containment line and that work will continue near Howard Creek today. The steep terrain will make for difficult work.

"There's no walking out from there. We have to raft out," Hunter said. "It's a tricky place."

More than 22,500 acres have burned at the Big Windy. The date of full containment has been pushed back to Sept. 7, six days later than the original Sept. 1 estimate.

Oregon Department of Forestry officials said they are prepared for additional lightning-caused fires throughout the day, beefing up their response force with a bulldozer and five additional engines.

"We're supposed to get lightning throughout the day," said Caitlin Goins, ODF spokeswoman.

Some northern California communities including Alturas have seen between one-half and three-fourths of an inch of rain in the past 24 hours, but no significant accumulations had been documented by 8 a.m. for Jackson County, despite some morning rains. Thunderstorm activity and precipitation are expected to continue through the day into the late afternoon hours.

— Ryan Pfeil

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