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Lightning starts new fires in West

BY SUSAN KIM | Sierra, NV | August 2, 2000

Just as rainfall helped firefightersin California gain better control over huge wildfires in that state, lightning in Nevada and other western states ignited still more blazes.

On Wednesday,some 42 large fires were burning about 660,000 acres across the U.S.-- an increase of more than 100,000 burned acres in just two days, according to the National

Fire Information Center (NFIC).

Several subdivisions outside of Reno, NV were under newly-issued evacuation orders on Wednesday morning but crews regained control by Wednesday afternoon. The

lightning-caused fire burned through 2,500 acres, scorching several roofs and a garage.

Increasing numbers of firefighters are being sent in from the East as residents and firefighters alike are wondering when this prolonged disaster will end.

For those near California's Sequoia National Forest, rainfall on Wednesday brought relief as firefighters brought the huge blaze there into 40 percent containment. That fire

destroyed seven homes over the weekend.

But most of the thunderstorms in the West brought little significant rainfall and dangerous lightning. Dry weather is expected for the rest of this week.

Wildfires are burning or threatening homes in California, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Hundreds of residents, some evacuated and some allowed back into their homes, are coping with heavy smoke that causes respiratory problems, ruins belongings, and adds

to a pervasive sense of prolonged disaster.

"My sister lives near the burned site and said the smoke was really thick, and this heat wave is not helping -- we just keep having 100-degree days. It's been a challenge," said Jo

McLean from the First Lutheran Church in Helena, MT, where some families are still evacuated and staying in shelters, local churches, or with family and friends. The

29,000-acre fire north of Helena burned nine homes.

Local Helena churches are offering prayer support for survivors and firefighters, shelter for families, meals, and personal supplies. St. Peter's Episcopal Church offered housing

for displaced families. McLean and other members of First Lutheran Church called to check on church members in the fire-affected area.

First Presbyterian Church, some 25 miles from the burn, opened its doors to firefighters. "We also kept in phone contact with about a dozen of our members who live in the

fire zone," said the Rev. Jack Terry, interim pastor. "We're offering prayer support as well, and we're going to organize work parties to help with the cleanup."

Salvation Army crews continue to offer mobile canteen services for fire fighters as well as family services to survivors.

The First Assembly of God Church in Helena has been designated as a donated goods receipt and distribution point, added Wallace, and some evacuated residents are stayed

at an American Red Cross Shelter in the Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in East Helena.

In Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, the Anasazi ruins, a popular tourist attraction, survived a 10-day fire that charred more than 23,000 acres and uncovered more than a

dozen new archaeological sites. The fire was contained Sunday, but damage to roads and utility lines will to keep the park closed at least two more weeks, according to park

officials. Officials are also concerned about erosion on the charred hills when the first heavy rain comes.

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