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Calm and clammy air Friday helped fire crews fight a huge wildfire to a standstill on Friday, but a second blaze sprang up and spread rapidly in another forest 100 miles south. About 1,200 firefighters were dumping water and hacking down trees and scrub growth to encircle the 65-square-mile fire in the Matanuska Valley 50 miles of Anchorage, which destroyed 298 houses and buildings, one-third of those in the fire's path.
Hundreds of firefighters from the Lower 48 states joined the battle Thursday against a 64-square-mile wildfire that tripled in size in a matter of hours and cast smoke over Anchorage 50 miles away. Calmer winds and higher humidity raised firefighters' hopes of putting out the fire burning in the Matanuska Valley. It has been difficult to determine the extent of damage because of the smoke. Officials said anywhere between 150 and 500 homes burned down in an area roughly the size of Miami. At least 800 firefighters were expected to arrive Thursday, and 200 more were due on today to join the 300 Alaskan volunteers who have been battling the fire for five days. The visiting firefighters - most of them coming from Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Montana - were arriving on commercial flights. Some were already wearing their boots, helmets and other fire gear.
Hundreds of firefighters torched brush ahead of an approaching wildfire Tuesday, managing to keep flames from shooting toward a laboratory where radioactive materials are stored. About 750 firefighters working the Dome Fire in New Mexico were buoyed Tuesday by their brush "burnout," which helped turn the forest fire back upon itself. Firefighters declared the blaze 40 percent contained. The burnout helped them keep the blaze from jumping into heavily forested Frijoles Canyon, the heart of Bandelier National Monument, with its ancient Indian ruins - and away from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
Hot, dry conditions hampered the efforts of firefighters to contain several lightning-sparked fires in Central and Southern Oregon Sunday. The largest fire had grown to 1,000 acres on Quartz Mountain near Bly. It started late Friday and at one point was burning up to 100 acres an hour, said Lisa Swinney, spokeswoman for the Fremont National Forest.
A fire started by a lightning strike Tuesday in the Boise National Forest was expected to be contained tonight. The Whiskey Fire, four miles north of Trinity Lake and 45 miles east of Boise, had reached 417 acres on Friday and was burning in thick subalpine fir. No injuries were reported and no structures were threatened.
Sporadic rain Thursday helped keep wildfires from spreading in the Wenatchee National Forest in northcentral Washington, and officials planned to send firefighters home beginning today. "They will leave a couple crews and a couple helicopters there to continue monitoring the fires, principally the Prince Creek fire, but the rest will go back to their normal stations," forest spokeswoman Robin DeMario said.
Debris from a firestorm that devastated the Entiat River Valley in north-central Washington 25 years ago was feeding one of several wildfires that continued to burn today in the Wenatchee National Forest. Lightning early Monday ignited 36 fires covering about 600 acres in the forest, but most burned no more than an acre and were out by Tuesday.
Firefighters struggled in rough terrain and blistering heat Sunday to contain a wildfire that blackened about 17,000 acres and destroyed a trailer and some ranch equipment. The fire in desert wilderness burned a couple of miles from Morongo Valley, but no other structures were threatened, said Iral Evans, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry. Erratic wind made firefighting difficult. "The winds are changing out there and the fire is changing direction every 15 minutes. We can't keep up with it," Evans said. The blaze, which began Friday, was 50 percent contained Sunday morning. Firefighters predicted full containment by Monday night, Evans said. The fire was started by a man charging the battery of his tractor. A drop cord leading from a house to the vehicle overheated and set grass on fire.
Hundreds of people paid their respects on Wednesday to the second of two Kuna firefighters killed last week when a wind-whipped range fire overtook their tanker truck. Eighteen-year-old Josh Oliver's funeral came a day after services for firefighter Bill Buttram. A memorial service honoring both men was set for today. Gov. Phil Batt was scheduled to attend. Just as when two McCall smoke jumpers died last summer in Colorado, colleagues of the Kuna men took part in debriefing sessions with mental-health professionals to get their emotions out in the open.
Fire crews patrolled the hills northwest of Chelan on Sunday to guard against any flare-ups from a 20-acre brush fire that destroyed one home. Saturday's fire in the Chelan Hills area temporarily forced the closure of Washington 150, the highway that runs along the north shore of the lake between Chelan and Manson.
A firefighter battles a lightning-sparked range fire threatening residential property east of Kuna, Idaho, on Friday. Two volunteer firefighters were killed by the same fire when high winds fanned flames that crews thought were under control.
A 20-acre brush fire in the Chelan Hills area burned one house Saturday and temporarily forced the closure of Washington 150, firefighters said. Crews from the U.S. Forest Service and Chelan and Douglas counties battled the wind-driven blaze, four miles northwest of Chelan. The blaze was completely contained by 8 p.m. and firefighters were patrolling the area overnight looking for hot spots, said Forest Service spokesman Rick Acosta. The cause of the fire was under investigation, Acosta said.
Nearly 2,000 Spokane area property owners have joined a series of lawsuits claiming the 1991 firestorm was as much the work of corporate negligence as an angry Mother Nature. The first case doesn't go to trial until next March, but the six class actions already are among the most paper-laden in Spokane County history. On Oct. 16, 1991, 92 separate fires, mostly in Spokane County, burned 35,000 acres, destroyed 114 homes and killed a woman and an unborn child. Damages were estimated at $15 million.
Sixty firefighters contained a blaze Tuesday that had scorched more than 50 acres on Italian Gulch ridge. Gary Darrington, assistant fire warden for the Idaho Department of Lands, said he expected the blaze to be under control by tonight. Four children accidentally started the fire Saturday while playing with a camp fire, said Shoshone County Sheriff's officials. The children ranged in ages from 11 to 14. The fire burned mostly brush and did not threaten any houses. Darrington said the children's parents may be charged for the cost of putting out the fire.
Forecasters perdict a wetter summer than last year, when fires consumed more than 200,000 acres of land in Central Washington. File/The Spokesman-Review
A brush fire that has charred more than 1,800 acres in western Arizona forced 40 families to evacuate their homes Thursday. About 200 firefighters were trying to tame the fire near the California border.
Just outside of town here, signs of new life are sprouting on the charred sides of Storm King Mountain in this, the first spring since a wildfire killed 14 firefighters. Small purple and yellow flowers dot the red dirt of the mountain, in contrast to the skeletons of burned trees.
Washington Conservation Corps member Nate Barker clears fire-blackened limbs along the Centennial Trail. Photo by Shawn Jacobson/The Spokesman-Review