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Firefighters battling 9 major fires in state

Firefighters battled nine major lightning fires covering a total of more than 20,000 acres in Eastern Oregon on Friday, most of them on grass and brush-covered rangeland, and kept an eye out for more blazes erupting from a second wave of lightning strikes in timber country.

Thirty-five fires were burning on the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation, Warm Springs Fire Management spokesman Bob Sjolund said. One that ignited in hills within a half mile of the town of Warm Springs was burning away from structures and was not considered a threat to the 2,500 residents, he said.

Lightning was reported across the northwestern corner of the state, but no major fires had erupted by late afternoon, Northwest Interagency Coordination Center spokesman Mark Morrow said.

Though dozens of small fires were burning on the Umpqua and Willamette national forests, none had grown to more than a few acres.

Meanwhile, forecasts called for much less lighting Friday night across the southwestern part of the state than had been feared earlier, Morrow said.

The biggest of the range fires was the Hancock complex, burning across 13,126 acres of rangeland straddling the John Day River and Highway 218 west of Fossil. That fire forced evacuation of the Hancock Field Station when it erupted Wednesday night and threatened 60 structures, only 15 of which were considered livable.

The more than 9,400 strikes Wednesday night and Thursday morning were the most in a 24-hour period in 11 years, Morrow said.

On the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation, the Webster fire was lined at about 1,000 acres of rangeland and no longer growing. The Antoken fire burned 2,000 acres of grass and scrub oak in Mutton Mountains in the northeastern corner of the reservation and reached the Deschutes River. The Seekseeqa fire burned about 1,000 acres on the Metolius Bench in the southeastern corner of the reservation, Sjolund said

Though temperatures were forecast in the 90s during the weekend, the lingering moisture from heavy snow and a wet spring were making it difficult for the fires to take off, Morrow said.