Western U.S. ablaze as fires spread

Hundreds of homes at risk as wildfires spread

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) | August 23, 2012

Fires continued to burn across the U.S. West Thursday, including about a dozen started by weekend lightning in California.

In northern California, the Ponderosa fire spread across 2,000 more acres overnight, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The fire, which was started by lightning Saturday, has charred almost 30,000 acres and destroyed at least 84 buildings, said Daniel Berlant, a Cal Fire spokesman.

Berlant said another 900 buildings are at risk from the fire, which is burning 30 miles east of Redding. He said the fire is 50 percent contained but said that is somewhat misleading because the fire is advancing to the east while most of the lines are on the west.

Three small towns in Tehama and Shasta counties have been ordered evacuated.

"This fire is continuing to make some aggressive runs on the east side," he said. "The winds are expected to come out of the southwest this afternoon and push the fire to the east."

Other lightning-caused fires are burning, Berlant said, keeping 10,000 firefighters busy. Two blazes in Mendocino County threaten some homes and have spread into the Mendocino National Forest.

In Oregon, firefighters set up a temporary camp to avoid driving four hours each way to the Cache Creek Fire in the Hells Canyon Recreation Area, The (Portland) Oregonian reported. Pam Sichting, a spokeswoman for the management team, said fire crews have to deal with poison oak and even worse things.

"It's steep, rocky and there are rattlesnakes," Sichting said. "There are all types of things that want to sting you and bite you out there and none of them are good."

Featherville, a small mountain resort in the southwestern Idaho, was evacuated because of the approach of the Trinity Ridge fire, Boise State National Public Radio reported. Firefighters spent Wednesday setting backfires to create a buffer zone protecting the town.

The fire, which has charred 97,000 acres and cost an estimated $16 million to fight, is not expected to be contained until mid-October.

In Washington state, the last residents displaced by the Taylor Bridge fire were allowed to return home Thursday. The fire, which began at a bridge construction site in mid-August, was almost contained. Firefighters were struggling in Hidden Valley, a steep-sided ravine where the fire could easily jump containment lines.

Copyright 2012 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

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