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Wildfires threaten homes

Dry weather across the U.S. is fueling fierce wildfires.

BY HEATHER MOYER | PAYSON, Ariz. | July 1, 2004

Dry weather across the U.S. is fueling fierce wildfires.

In Arizona, firefighters have been battling a 32,000-acre blaze in the center of the state for more than a week. The Willow wildfire is 5 percent contained at this point and is close to the city of Payson.

"Payson is a concern, but it's not immediately threatened at this time," said Beth Wilson, spokesperson for Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team in Arizona. The city of 14,000 is preparing just in case, with officials helping survey the city to make sure it would be ready.

Severe weather isn't helping the 800 firefighters assigned to the Willow Fire. "It is extremely dry," said Wilson. "It's so dry that yesterday one of our team's bulldozers hit a rock, which caused some sparks, and started a small fire." Wilson said that fire was quickly extinguished, but that's one sign of how extreme the conditions in the area are.

In Alaska, hundreds of residents fled their homes north of Fairbanks when the Boundary wildfire nearly doubled in size to 75,000 acres Tuesday night. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, structure protection has become a priority in the residential areas by the wildfire. One local highway is closed and officials are having a hard time monitoring the fire due to poor visibility.

The Pingo wildfire in northeast Alaska grew to 143,000 acres and is threatening a small village. Across Alaska, there are 60 active wildfires.

Lightning also touched off a series of wildfires near Reno, Nevada. No homes were immediately threatened.

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