Wildfires burn in 7 Western states, prompt evacuations
Wildfires were burning Monday in seven Western U.S. states, from California’s famed Big Sur region to tribal towns and hamlets near Reno, Nevada. Evacuations were ordered in Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming and firefighters were trying to stop a Washington blaze from reaching a thickly forested security zone at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Here’s a look at some of the fires:
Higher humidity and lower temperatures on Monday helped firefighters battle a destructive fire that has scorched more than 63 square miles near the scenic Big Sur coast, while firefighters in Central California faced blistering heat as they worked to contain a blaze that burned rural homes and forced hundreds of evacuations near the small Fresno County town of Prather.
A layer of ocean air that arrived in the mountainous Big Sur region was credited for the better firefighting conditions in an area where a fire that started July 22 has destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings and is threatening 2,000 more structures. A bulldozer operator working for the firefighting operation died in an accident last week.
The blaze near Prather damaged an undetermined number of 400 evacuated homes just outside the Sierra National Forest, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
That fire started Saturday and by Monday had grown to nearly 3 square miles with just 15 percent of it cut off by firefighters from burning further.
Just north of Los Angeles, a 65-square-mile wildfire in wilderness just north of Los Angeles was almost fully contained and only active with isolated pockets of vegetation burning within a perimeter firefighters established to prevent it from burning outside the zone. A man who refused to evacuate from a home was killed and the fire also prompted the evacuation of about 20,000 people.
A southwest Idaho wildfire burning timber in rugged terrain and pushed by winds grew to 60 square miles Monday.
Temperatures in the 90s, wind and low humidity caused significant expansion on Sunday. Firefighting aircraft were grounded for about 45 minutes because of people flying their drones in the area, creating a potential hazard for the aircraft pilots.
The fire closed a section of State Highway 21 between Idaho City and Lowman and destroyed two outbuildings.
A firefighter suffered burns during the weekend when fuel spilled on his arm and it ignited.
Homes were burned by a fast-moving wildfire in the Bitterroot National Forest in western Montana, but forest officials said they did not know how many.
Ravalli County authorities ordered residents of about 500 homes to evacuate or prepare to evacuate after the fire began Sunday afternoon southwest of Hamilton.
It had burned nearly 5.5 square miles by Monday morning.
“I’ve talked to homeowners who said we had 200-foot flames coming off those trees. This thing really blew up, and I’ve never seen anything like it in the years that I’ve been” with the Bitterroot National Forest, spokesman Tod McKay said.
Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said he could not immediately provide details about the number of homes or buildings destroyed.
About 800 firefighters were battling a series of fires that had threatened a tribal town and hamlets near Pyramid Lake, north of Reno.
The fire zone totaled about 78 square miles Monday, said fire spokeswoman Jesse Bender.
Residents of about 30 homes in Cottonwood Creek and Fish Springs Ranch were warned they would receive 30 minutes notice to evacuate if necessary.
About 600 people were ordered out of the shoreline town of Sutcliffe over the weekend, and 200 were evacuated from beach areas.
Flames destroyed six houses and mobile homes, two vehicles and several out-buildings at historic Hardscrabble Ranch, according to Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal officials.
Eastern Oregon residents urged to evacuate over the weekend because of a wildfire were allowed to return home.
About 20 structures remained threatened by the fire east of the town of Pendleton, the Oregon Department of Forestry said.
The East Oregonian reports (http://bit.ly/2arHV8y ) that columns of smoke were rose Sunday after the blaze scorched about 500 acres of grass and timber along Interstate 84.
It was 25 percent contained by Sunday evening.
A wildfire burning toward the Hanford Nuclear Reservation scorched about 110 square miles as it spread from Grant and Yakima counties into Benton County.
The blaze was the largest of several wildfires burning in Eastern Washington and grew quickly after it started Saturday on the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Center, The Yakima Valley Herald reported.
Firefighters were working to stop the flames from reaching a large wildland security zone maintained around a portion of the nuclear site. Hanford once made plutonium for nuclear weapons and is now undergoing a decades-long cleanup. The zone was designed to keep people away during World War II and the Cold War. It now serves mainly as a wildlife preserve.
The Department of Energy said Monday on its website that Hanford work schedules were not immediately affected by the fire.
A small section of Highway 24 near Hanford Reach remained temporarily closed due to that wildfire while evacuation orders were lifted at another wildfire burning about 1,000 acres outside the town of Prosser.
Several campgrounds along the Naches River in central Washington were evacuated Sunday evening as fire burned in thick forest about 25 miles west of Yakima. About 25 homes in the area were also evacuated.
Firefighters made progress over the weekend in their effort to contain several fires burning in western part of the state.
An approximately 2-square-mile blaze that destroyed eight homes and prompted the evacuation of about 140 others in southern Uinta County was 25 percent contained.
Northwest of Dubois, a 21-square-mile blaze was 40 percent surrounded and some residents who evacuated seasonal homes were allowed to return.
In neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest, a fire that has burned about 45 square miles was 81 percent contained.
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