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20 wildfires burning in Siskiyou County after lightning strikes

The Head Fire, as of Tuesday evening.
CalTrans Facebook page
The Head Fire in Siskiyou County, as of Tuesday evening.

The largest is the Head Fire, which is estimated to have burned about 3,000 acres so far.

The fires are affecting both the Klamath National Forest as well as private land just south of the Oregon border.

Many of the fires are quite small, only a tenth of an acre, and have been fully contained. The largest is the Head Fire in the Seiad Valley, near the confluence of the Klamath and Scott rivers. All were sparked by lightning strikes on Monday evening.

Rachel Smith, the forest supervisor with the Klamath National Forest, said they expect the number of fires will grow.

"We are anticipating continuing to see new starts in the next couple of days, at least through Saturday. And in terms of weather, it continues to be extremely hot and extremely dry. We have red flag warnings across the North State. So definitely a high concern," she said.

There are evacuation orders and warnings in place in the county. Evacuation shelters have been set up for both people and animals who have been displaced by the Head Fire. Siskiyou County residents should sign up for the CodeRED emergency notification system if they have not already.

"We're continuing to experience what I'd call abundant lightning across the north state," Smith said. "We really rely on an amazing network of lookouts across the forest, and our lookouts are keeping their eyes peeled for new smokes, and we're sending our firefighters after them as we are able to observe them."

A Fire Weather Watch is in place in the area through Thursday evening due to expected thunderstorms. There is also an Excessive Heat Warning and Red Flag Warning in place.

A pyro-cumulus cloud formed over the Head Fire on Tuesday but dissipated that night. This type of cloud is formed when a fire heats the air, which rises, expands and then cools. The cloud can then produce its own lightning.

Because of the fires, the Pacific Crest Trail has been closed from Etna Summit to the Oregon-California border.

Road closures are in effect for Highway 96 and the Scott River Road.

More information can be found on the Facebook pages for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.