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Lightning storms cause additional concerns for fires still burning due to lightning

The map of the various Miller Complex fires as of Thursday. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Southern Ore. - Late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, the Oregon Department of Forestry responded to six new lightning caused fires.

The brunt of the fires came in the middle of the day and that's what firefighting agencies feared the most.

"Our theme for this whole entire fire is go slow to go fast," Charissa Reid, a public information officer for the Miller Complex Fire, said.

In the Miller Complex, the fires have been burning relatively low and slow. Two of them, the Burnt Peak Fire and Creedence Fire, are nearly wrapped up, but crews are still nervous about lightning igniting fires nearby.

"Right now with resources spread as thin as they are in the northwest, we don't need new fires," Reid said.

Hundreds of lightning strikes came through the area Thursday, but fortunately, the majority of them are not cloud to ground, but still give the Forest Service deja vu.

"We have heard a lot of Groundhog Day talk on this fire," Reid said. "With the storm coming in, it sounds like there might be a little wind with that which is not ever a firefighter's friend so we are going to be concerned for about the next 24 hours about how those conditions change what's going on with the fire."

While most of the fires in southern Oregon and northern California are on U.S. Forest Service land, Oregon Department of Forestry has just as much concern.

"Although there will be moisture scattered throughout the areas, there are also areas of the storm that get no precipitation," Melissa Cano, the public information officer for ODF, said.

Those areas tend to be higher elevations that are harder for crews to get to, especially with the lingering smoke in the area.

"Usually on the way [to a fire], you can typically see that small, light, wispy column," Cano said. "However, due to the current air quality, it's difficult. It's very difficult to find new starts."

Fortunately, ODF lowered the Industrial Fire Level back to 3 early Thursday so operators can go back into forests for work, which will give extra eyes to firefighting agencies.

ODF also received new reinforcements on Thursday with a FLIR aircraft - which uses thermal imaging to help spot new fires in the area.

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