Firefighters chase new Oregon fires sparked by lightning

Firefighters chase new Oregon fires sparked by lightning
In this photo taken on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, lightning from one of many eastern Oregon and Washington thunderstorms crackles over the mountains just south of Tollgate, Ore. (AP Photo/ Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Greg Lehman)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A band of thunderstorms moving across Oregon sparked dozens of new wildfires that crews chased Wednesday.

Oregon received 19,000 lightning strikes since Tuesday afternoon, resulting in at least 25 new fires covering a total of 160 acres, stretching from the southern Cascade Range northwest into central and northeastern Oregon, said Carol Connoll, Northwest Interagency Coordination Center spokesman.

A lot of rain accompanied many of the storms, so it is not clear how many of those new starts may grow into large fires.

Meanwhile, cooler temperatures and rain helped firefighters increase containment on the 11 large fires still burning across more than 935 square miles of central and northeastern Oregon since a string of lightning storms moved across the region 10 days ago. A total of 6,636 personnel were working on the fires.

The Buzzard Complex of fires was 90 percent contained after burning through 618 square miles of rangeland about 45 miles northeast of Burns. It was the biggest wildfire in the country so far this year.

The Waterman Complex of fires was 80 percent contained after burning 20 square miles of timber, brush and grass in the Ochoco Mountains around Mitchell. U.S. Highway 26 was open with speed restrictions.

The Bridge 99 Fire 20 miles north of Sisters was 50 percent contained after charring 9 square miles, mostly on the Deschutes National Forest.

The Shaniko Butte Complex of fires was 75 percent contained after burning 63 square miles of grass 15 miles north of Warm Springs.

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