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27 wildfires burning in Idaho, Montana

More evacuations ordered as communities, structures threatened.

BOISE, Idaho | July 31, 2007

More than two dozen wildfires were burning Monday throughout Montana and Idaho, some threatening communities and structures and prompting evacuations. In California, meantime, the stubborn Zaca fire grew with containment figures continuing to decline.

Fifteen wildfires were reported in Idaho, burning from the north-central part of the state to the southeast and southwest. The largest of the blazes in the nation, the 653,100-acre Murphy Complex about 50 miles southwest of Twin Falls, was expected to be fully contained today.

In Montana, where about a dozen fires were burning, evacuation orders were issued Monday night for nearly 50 homes threatened by two separate and rapidly growing blazes.

One of those blazes, the Ahorn fire about 30 miles west of Augusta, had mushroomed to more than 45,000 acres up from 30,000 one day earlier prompting the evacuation of about 27 homes. Residents in nearly 50 other homes in the area were told to be ready to evacuate as early as Tuesday. The lightning-sparked Ahorn fire is believed to have started June 28. It was 5 percent contained.

An evacuation order was also issued for another 20 homes threatened by the Meriwether fire in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. The fire, 37 miles northwest of Helena, has grown to nearly 16,000 acres and was 10 percent contained. Residents in the American Bar, Beaver Creek and Nelson areas remain under an evacuation order issued earlier.

Elsewhere in Montana, the Skyland fire near Glacier National Park nearly doubled in size, to 10,000 acres, and was 5 percent contained. Residents in the area have been advised to evacuate. The fire began July 23 and forced the evacuation of employees and guests at the Summit Station Lodge and frequent closures of U.S. Highway 2.

On California's central coast, firefighters continued to battle the Zaca fire, which has been burning in the Los Padres National Forest since July 4. The fire, which had been 80 percent contained and holding at 31,000 acres at the weekend, flared up again, growing to more than 35,000 acres and prompting evacuations in the Peachtree community. Containment fell to 60 percent as of Monday night and complete containment was not expected until Sept. 7.

In northern California, the Elk Complex fire in the Klamath National Forest grew to 12,385 acres and was 77 percent contained. Full containment was still expected Sunday.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 34 large active fires were burning in the U.S., nearly all of them in the West. States reporting large fires were California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Florida and Michigan.


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