Wildfires in West continue to rage

National alert level raised.

BY P.J. HELLER | BOISE, Idaho | July 20, 2007

A helicopter drops water on a fire burning near Monument.

A firefighter uses a drip torch to introduce fire to standing vegetation at the Zaca fire.
Credit: Mike Ferris/USFS

The National Interagency Fire Center raised the national wildfire alert to its highest level Thursday as more fires continued to scorch the western U.S.

Dry and windy conditions, hundreds of large fires and resources being stretched thin prompted the Level 5 alert.

Firefighters, meantime, continued to battle wildfires raging throughout parched Western states. At least 72 large active fires were burning over more than 1.2 million acres, the fire center reported. It said 412 new fires were reported Wednesday.

Among the largest fires, at 137,000 acres, was the Egley Complex blaze about 10 miles from Riley, Ore. The fire, which was started July 6 by a lightning strike, threatened about 20 residences as well as vacation cabins and ranches. It was being fought by nearly 1,700 firefighters. The blaze was 70 percent contained by Thursday night.

The fire was one of at least nine burning in the state, including a 35,000-acre fire in the Umatilla National Forest near Monument. That fire, which began July 13 and was reported to be threatening homes in the rural area around Monument, was 20 percent contained.

In California, evacuation orders were eased for residents in the Santa Ynez Valley who had been threatened by the Zaca fire burning in the Los Padres National Forest and San Rafael Wilderness. Evacuation orders had been issued on Monday.

The fire has burned 30,800 acres since it began July 4 and was 44 percent contained as of Thursday. More than 1,700 firefighters were battling the blaze in steep and rugged terrain.

In northern California, the 8,327-acre Elk Complex fire in the Klamath National Forest threatened some 500 structures near Happy Camp. Voluntary evacuations were advised in some areas. The fire was 15 percent contained with full containment expected July 29.

In Idaho, the Chimney Complex blaze which threatened some homes near Lewiston, had grown to 35,000 acres. The fire, which began July 13, was 55 percent contained. Full containment was estimated for July 28.

Evacuation orders for residents threatened by the Tunk Grade fire burning in Washington have been lifted as the blaze was held to 16,498 acres. The fire, sparked by lightning Saturday, was about two miles from Tonasket and about 10 miles northeast of Omak. It was 85 percent contained with full containment expected Saturday.

Governors in both Washington and Montana declared a statewide wildfire emergency this week. Four large fires were reported in Montana and four in Washington.

In Montana, a fire about seven miles from Wolf Creek forced the evacuation of about 30 families and more than two dozen more were warned that they might also have to leave. The fire has burned about 300 acres.

In Nevada, firefighters continued to battle the 2,703-acre Hawken Fire near Reno. The blaze was 34 percent contained. Full containment was expected Tuesday.

Numerous other fires were burning in the state. Among them was the Rowland Fire, which began in northern Nevada and spread into Idaho. Evacuation orders were issued for the small towns of Murphy Hot Springs and Jarbidge.

The fire has burned 125,000 acres and was 2 percent contained.

Elsewhere, wildfires were reported in Arizona, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, Texas and Virginia.


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