Firefighters hope weather will help

Wildfires continue to threaten homes in West.

BY P.J. HELLER | BOISE, Idaho | August 8, 2007

Firefighters battling the Zaca wildfire cover the historic Bluff Cabin with fire protective wrap.
Credit: Paula Patsey, USFS

Dozers construct fire lines at the Zaca wildfire in California.
Credit: U.S. Forest Service

Firefighters in Montana were hoping for favorable weather conditions Wednesday to gain ground on a wildfire threatening some 1,500 homes in the resort community of Seeley Lake.

In California, meantime, the Zaca wildfire grew to more than 72,000 acres but winds pushed it away from the Santa Barbara County mountain communities that it has been threatening. More than 800 people remain evacuated and road closures on Highway 154 remain in place. The fire, being fought by more than 2,300 firefighters, was 68 percent contained. The fire has been burning since July 4.

At Seeley Lake, the forecast called for cooler temperatures, cloud cover and air inversions, all of which would help in the battle to contain the Jocko Lakes blaze burning since Friday. The fire is about 33 miles northeast of Missoula. It has burned 18,000 acres was 10 percent contained.

Some 675 homes in the area remain evacuated. One home has been destroyed and another home and a commercial building have been damaged.

The fire was one of 13 reported burning throughout the state. A similar number of fires was reported in Idaho.

The Chippy Creek fire, at more than 50,000 acres, was the largest wildfire burning in Montana. It was located about 24 miles north of Thompson Falls and was 5 percent contained. About 50 homes remain evacuated.

The 44,000-acre Ahorn blaze burning 30 miles west of Augusta was just 2 percent contained. The fire, which was threatening some 162 homes and has prompted evacuations, was caused by lightning on July 11.

Elsewhere in Montana, 240 homes were briefly evacuated south of Billings after a 150-acre wildfire was sparked by a 12-year-old playing with fireworks. No homes were reported damaged.

Other evacuations were ordered for residents in the Darby area threatened by the 500-acre Tin Cup fire. The fire was reported two miles from the town and was 30 percent contained. Evacuation orders also remained in place for homes threatened by the Sawmill Complex of three fires burning 22 miles southeast of Missoula. That fire has burned more than 14,000 acres since it was started by lightning July 15.

In Idaho, the Cascade Complex fire, which grew to nearly 70,000 acres since it started July 17, was 30 percent contained. The East Zone complex of three fires northwest of McCall was at 55,042 acres with containment remaining at 15 percent. The fire has been burning since July 6. Full containment was expected Aug. 30.

The National Interagency Fire Center said a total of 40 large wildfires were burning across the West. More than 835,000 acres have been burned.

Elsewhere, a fire burning in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has forced more evacuations. The blaze, about 61 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, has grown to nearly 16,000 acres and forced more than 200 people from their homes. The fire was 20 percent contained.


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