SD wildfire kills one; fires continue in West

Evacuations, road closures and fatalities reported.

BY STAFF REPORT | WINNEMUCCA, Nev. | July 8, 2007


Fire retardant is dropped on the Neola North fire in Utah.
Credit: Taylor Stephens

A fast-moving wildfire in Hot Springs, S.D., killed one person and burned 27 homes Sunday.

The nearly 5,000-acre blaze forced the evacuation of 50 homes and injured two firefighters. The fire was 20 percent contained Sunday night.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 residents in Winnemucca, Nev., were allowed to return home after a wildfire forced them from their homes Saturday night. The northern Nevada wildfire has burned 50,000 acres and was 30 percent contained.

The fires were only two of dozens of active major blazes burning throughout the U.S. Heavy fire activity was reported throughout the West, with Nevada and Idaho hardest hit with blazes started by lightning strikes, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

It said fire danger would remain high in the western states despite predictions that temperatures drop 10 to 15 degrees. Temperatures in Winnemucca were forecast to range 99 and 106 on Monday.

A 7,000-acre wildfire near Carlin, Nev., burned two homes and several outbuildings Saturday night.

In central Utah, about a 100-mile stretch of Interstate 15 was closed when a 160,000-acre wildfire jumped the highway. Two motorcyclists were killed when traffic was stopped on the smoke-choked roadway and they were struck by a vehicle. The fire, believed to be caused by a lightning strike, also forced the closure of about a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 70. The interstate reopened Sunday.

Cove Fort, located near the junction of the two interstates, was evacuated after the blaze, dubbed the Milford Flat fire, threatened the historical site and about 15 to 20 homes and buildings there.

The fire began Friday afternoon about three miles north of Milford. It spread rapidly, pushed by winds of 45 mph.

At the Neola North wildfire in northeastern Utah, firefighters continued to make progress, reporting that the blaze was 65 percent contained.

More than 700 firefighters continued to work fire lines. The fire began June 29 about three miles north of Neola. The area is about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City.

The fire has burned 43,511 acres and destroyed 12 homes and 24 outbuildings. No cause for the fire, which killed three people, has been announced. Residents who were evacuated from several small rural towns in the area were allowed to return home on Wednesday.

Meals, snacks, water and cleaning supplies were being provided to returning residents by volunteers from The Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Humanitarian Services and the American Red Cross. The Red Cross said it would end its response Sunday.

No date was given for when the fire would be fully contained.

In Washington state, at least 40 homes were threatened by a 150-acre wildfire in Wenatchee. An evacuation order was issued for about 240 homes in the area. The fire was reported 50 percent contained.

And in northern Arizona, about 24 residents were evacuated from two tiny towns near Mormon Lake after a 900-acre wildfire threatened homes and summer cabins in the area.

In western Colorado, meantime, a wildfire near Rulison, about 160 miles west of Denver, was 85 percent contained. The fire burned about 200 acres and destroyed one outbuilding. Firefighters earlier had erroneously reported three buildings, including one home, had been destroyed. Residents who were evacuated have been allowed to return home.


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