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Nevada Fires Char 600,000 Acres

August 7, 1999

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Rain and cooler weather helped turn the corner on one big fire on Friday but firefighters continued to battle more than 100 smaller blazes that have burned an area nearly the size of Rhode Island.

At 611,000 acres and growing, the fires threatened ranches and homes near the Oregon border. Smoke intermittently forced the closure of Interstate 80 near Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Elko.

Flames burned within a mile of a housing subdivision in Battle Mountain. Only three outbuildings had been destroyed, with no homes damaged or injuries reported.

Most of the fires were sparked by more than 8,000 lightning strikes as thunderstorms rolled across the state. They were burning sage brush and cheat grass across remote, uninhabited range, forcing hand crews to hike for long distances.

``It was pretty steep. We ran into rattlesnakes. It was pretty tough conditions,″ Burea of Land Management firefighter Stan Henrich said.

Forty air tankers and helicopters aided from the air, and an estimated 160 fire engines were on the ground by midday Friday.

Thanks to rain, low winds and temperatures forecast to dip from the 90s to the 70s, containment was expected by the end of the weekend at a big fire that was sparked by lightning just northeast of Reno on Tuesday night.

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