Southwest Oregon got a respite from lightning strikes Thursday afternoon and evening, but firefighters are still dealing with numerous blazes across the region.

Smoke could be seen to the east of Grants Pass Thursday night and this morning, some of it from the 5,300-acre Oregon Gulch fire that straddles the Oregon-California border and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument about 10 miles east of Ashland.

That fire, ignited by lightning Wednesday night, blew up Thursday evening with swirling winds, growing from 1,700 to 5,000 acres in less than two hours, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The fire has burned some outbuildings on ranches, but no homes. Residents along Copco Road south of Highway 66 were advised to evacuate Thursday night.

Closer to Grants Pass but much smaller, the Salt Creek Fire northeast of Wimer in Jackson County was still listed at 100 acres, with heavy firefighting from helicopters and air tankers on Thursday.

Fire spokesperson Jenn Warren said firefighters made good progress Thursday and hoped to have the fire, also started by lightning, fully lined today.

It is burning in steep terrain on Bureau of Land Management property.

The Reeves Creek Fire is now in mop-up stage. It started near Lake Selmac Monday night and threatened a handful of homes on Reeves Creek Road, burning over 200 acres. The ODF has not determined a cause of this fire.

Meanwhile the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest was still dealing with about 75 fires, mostly small, started by lightning Monday through Wednesday.

Another fire was discovered this morning, 40 acres, completely inside the Sky Lakes Wilderness, said Tim Johnson, forest spokesperson. Other than that, it was quiet.

"The weather was very kind to us (Thursday night)," Johnson said. "Fire activity on the forest did not significantly increase."

There are no red flag warnings today on the west side.

Lightning maps from Thursday show everything to the east of the Cascade crest.

The Wagner Fire near Mount Ashland, 9 acres, was the largest of the fires in the Siskiyou Mountain Ranger District of the forest, but the High Cascades Ranger District had the new 40-acre fire, plus other fires as large as 20 acres, including the Camp Creek Complex, with a total of 50 acres near Rustler Peak northeast of Butte Falls.

At the regional fire center in Portland, spokeswoman Carol Connolly said Thursday that more than 40 small fires were reported in the previous 24 hours. Nearly 500,000 acres Ñ about 780 square miles Ñ are burning in the state.

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Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com

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