Damaging fires span nation

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE, MD | June 18, 2001


An unusual number of damaging fires -- aggravated by summer heat -- dotted the U.S. Monday.

In Nevada, a forest fire grew to 20,000 acres, causing some evacuations in a nearby rural area, and closing a major rail line.

A mobile home, travel trailer, and three vehicles were destroyed in the

Hirschdale area, and 42 homes in Floriston were ordered evacuated.

On Monday firefighters were still battling the blaze, hampered by

temperatures in the low 80s, low humidity, and 20-mph winds. Fire officials

reported the blaze still had not been contained.

The fire started Sunday east of Truckee, CA, and spread toward Reno, NV.

It closed the transcontinental rail line through the Truckee River Canyon used

by Union Pacific freight and Amtrak passenger trains.

Interstate 80 was closed at the Nevada state line after flames jumped the

highway. Heavy smoke hung over the Reno area.

The area is experiencing its driest conditions in more than 50 years. Officials

are concerned that fire hazard will only grow exponentially as the summer

progresses.

Wildfires were burning in several other western states Monday, as well as

Florida, where residents are trying to cope with damage from Tropical Storm

Allison.

New York also saw a tragic Father's Day weekend fire when a hardware

store in Queens exploded Sunday, killing three firefighters, burying dozens of

people beneath the rubble, and causing evacuations of nearby residences.

More than 50 people were injured when propane tanks and paint stored in

the basement exploded.

The explosion was so violent that people in adjacent buildings reported being

thrown from their seats. Residents who live within five blocks of the store

were evacuated as more than 350 firefighters and 70 rescue units were called

to the scene. The fire was still burning Monday but was considered under

control.


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