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Blazes in Idaho, Washington

Mon., July 16, 2007

A wildfire south of Lewiston destroyed two outbuildings, burned over several archaeological sites and grew rapidly Sunday to about 24 square miles.

The Chimney Complex fire, about 19 miles from Lewiston, was among several wildfires ignited across the region in the past several days by lightning. Seven of the largest fires had covered about 214 square miles by Sunday, the National Interagency Fire Center reported.

Details on the archaeological sites burned by the Chimney Complex were not immediately available, fire spokeswoman Jennifer Costich said from the fire camp near Lewiston. There was no estimate when the fire would be contained.

“It’s extremely difficult, very steep terrain,” she said. “It’s basically the Snake River Breaks and the surrounding tributaries.”

No injuries were reported, she said.

About 200 firefighters were battling the blaze, aided by two helicopters and two air tankers, she said.

“There are a lot of fires going on in our area; we are just sharing them now,” she said of the tankers.

Meanwhile, in Washington, crews were battling fires in several parts of the state, including a blaze northeast of Yakima that rekindled Sunday and had to be contained a second time.

The fire about five miles south of the farm town of Royal City originally broke out Friday. Firefighters had been monitoring it for hot spots for two days, but the fire reignited Sunday morning, pushed by 25 mph winds, said Chief Brian Evans of Grant County Fire Districts 10 and 11.

The fire burned more than 2 square miles, or about 1,500 acres, of sage, grass and groundcover before firefighters contained it Sunday afternoon. At one time, six homes and six outbuildings were threatened. Sixty-five firefighters and three aircraft battled the blaze.

Investigators were focusing on whether the fire started from an illegal burn, Evans said.

The state’s largest fires were in southcentral Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills, where nearly 90 square miles of grass, sagebrush and farm fields were burning in three fires sparked by lightning. A fourth fire was burning on the nearby Hanford Reach National Monument.

In northcentral Washington’s Colville National Forest, six fires were burning in heavy timber. They ranged in size from an acre to 100 acres, and firefighters had no estimate of containment on any of them, spokeswoman Betty Higgins said.

No structures were threatened, but the Forest Service closed Davis Lake Campground, and some trails and roads in the Silver Creek, Bulldog Cabin Creek and south fork Boulder Creek areas.

Firefighters were keeping a close eye on the scattered fires that started as more than 2,600 lightning strikes were reported across Washington and Oregon on Friday, said Roger Peterson, a spokesman at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

“The initial attack folks have done a great job of finding those fires and keeping them small,” Peterson said.

Forecasts called for cooler, damper weather later in the week.

Back in Idaho, about 25 miles northeast of McCall, the East Zone Complex of three lightning-caused fires had covered about a square mile of timber and grass, fire information officer Kim Frasier said.

More firefighters were being brought in, she said, because more fires appeared likely in the area, with hot, dry conditions and more thunderstorms with lightning predicted.

“With how many fires are coming, and the weather, they just knew we had a lot more fires to come,” Frasier said.

Elsewhere, the Black Pine 2 Fire in southern Idaho remained the largest fire in the state.

It was holding steady at about 112 square miles with about 65 percent containment.

But the Tongue Complex Fire, about 45 miles south of Silver City, grew 15 square miles to 75 square miles by Sunday, with its containment dropping from 30 percent to 10 percent.

Fire managers reported that the fire grew quickly after humidity dropped and the temperature hit 102.


 

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