Firefighters had a group of wildfires in western Nebraska nearly contained on Saturday, but were watching the skies for lightning that could spark more fires on the tinder-dry terrain.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Officials believe lightning strikes Thursday started the five Keith County fires near Lake McConaughy at Ogallala. The lake is Nebraska's largest and is a popular summer destination, but the region is otherwise sparsely populated.
Three of the fires burned out of control Friday, but Nebraska Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Jodie Fawl told The Associated Press that one of the fires had been completely extinguished by Saturday and two others were fully contained.
"It looks like they're winding down," Fawl said. "They've made some real progress."
A fire north of Brule was 75 percent to 80 percent contained on Saturday, and another in northeastern Keith and southwest McPherson counties was 90 percent contained.
The wildfires have blackened more than 78 square miles. One firefighter suffered heat exhaustion Friday, but no other injuries or building damage have been reported. No evacuations or road closures had been ordered by Saturday.
But relief could be short-lived if the weather doesn't cooperate.
The National Weather Service said a strong cold front was expected to move through the area Saturday night. While the lower temperatures would be welcomed, the strong winds expected to accompany them could fan any remaining flames.
Meteorologists also expected storms overnight with frequent lightening, which could spark new fires.
About 150 miles to the northwest, firefighters continued Saturday to keep small wildfires near Crawford in check.
Chadron radio station KCSR reported that high winds Friday rekindled a fire five miles south of Crawford.
The radio station reported that some residents in rural Dawes County were evacuated, but no homes or buildings were damaged.
Firefighters contained another fire north of Crawford.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press - 16:17 8.4.12. All Rights Reserved.)