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Lightning sparks brush fires in Riverside County

July 15, 2010 |  4:43 pm

About a half-dozen brush fires were sparked by lightning strikes Thursday afternoon in Riverside County as a heat wave and humid weather continued to grip Southern California.

Fire crews were scrambling to contain the blazes, which began about 3 p.m., the Riverside County Fire Department said. An aerial tanker headed to a brush fire in San Diego County noticed one of the first fires.

"We've got small fires and larger fires," said department spokeswoman Cheri Patterson. "We're trying to catch up. It's been hectic."

The blazes were reported near Temecula and the town of Sage. Two of the wildfires were close to each other and could combine into one, officials said.

More than 200 firefighters, aided by water-dropping helicopters and aerial tankers, were battling the blazes. The fires were burning heavy brush, officials said, and winds were blowing at 15 mph to 25 mph.

-- Robert J. Lopez