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Wildfires char 500,000 acres

BY KRISTINA KNIGHT | LEAVENWORTH, WA | August 21, 2001

Nearly a half a million acres of the western U.S. were burning Tuesday with many fires still out of control. But cooler temperatures and rain forecast for the Pacific northwest may bring some relief later this week.

In Central Washington, more than a thousand firefighters are battling the blazes near Leavenworth, where the evacuation order has been lifted for 50 homes. Eighteen homes are still in danger, and those residents are not being allowed back.

So far, more than 150,000 acres have burned in Washington from eight different fires. Across the West, forty more fires are burning in seven states causing damage for more than 450,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

From the air, fire crews are dropping retardant so the ground crews have a chance to get to the fires, but they need more than a little help.

From the ground, crews are scraping and burning perimeters around towns like Monument, hoping to protect at least some of the threatened homed and businesses.

Firefighters from Maryland, Louisiana and a number of other states have arrived to assist local firefighters battle the fires. They join the National Guard and 26,000 other firefighters battling the out of control fires.

And another fire crew from Spokane Washington, part of the National Guard is on hand to fight the Icicle Fire in Washington which was 30 percent contained on Tuesday.

But the fight isnít over yet.

Very high fire indices are still being reported in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. This means that conditions are right if new fires are started by lightning or other causes. And it is a situation that could make an already out of control situation even worse.

The most promising help seems to be coming from the north, as a strong weather system comes into Washington and Oregon from the Gulf of Alaska. This system could produce record rainfall in Washington and showers could reach into Oregon by evening.

The weather could also be a threat, especially if the system develops into severe or isolated dry thunderstorms.

In all, more than $3.5 million has been spent to fight fires this summer.


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