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Lightning starts 6 new range fires in eastern Oregon


GRANTS PASS, Oregon — Lightning storms have ignited six new range fires in eastern Oregon, and more bad weather is expected by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland said Thursday that the fires touched off by the last string of thunderstorms a week and a half ago are closer to containment, thanks to rain and cool temperatures that came with the storms. Some firefighters who were working those fires were being demobilized to fight major blazes in Washington state.

Spokeswoman Carol Connolly said others were being assigned to the new fires on the Vale District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

A total of 17 large fires were burning across 933 square miles of forests and range in central and eastern Oregon.

The six new fires ranged from 1 1/2 square miles to 14 square miles. Nine structures were threatened, but no evacuation alerts were issued.

Windy, warmer and drier weather was forecast for Friday and Saturday, and by Sunday, a new string of thunderstorms could move in, she said.

Among the fires started by lightning storms earlier this month, the Bridge 99 fire was 50 percent contained at 9 square miles of timber, brush and grass mostly on the Deschutes National Forest 20 miles north of Sisters. To the west on the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, the Bingham Complex was 45 percent contained at 452 acres.

On the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the Shaniko Butte fire was 75 percent contained at 63 square miles of grass.

To the east in the Ochoco Mountains around Mitchell, the Waterman Complex was 80 percent contained at 20 square miles of timber, brush and grass. Some campgrounds on the Ochoco National Forest remained closed, but U.S. Highway 26 was open.

In eastern Oregon 45 miles northeast of Burns, the nation's largest wildfire, the Buzzard Complex, was 90 percent contained after burning 618 square miles of juniper, brush and grass.

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