Crews battling 35 large, uncontained wildfires in the West
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Thirty-five large, uncontained wildfires were burning in the West, and firefighters were making initial attacks on another 112 new blazes to prevent them from spreading.
Firefighters in the region mostly faced windy, dry conditions that have fanned flames that destroyed buildings and forced evacuations in California, Washington, Idaho and elsewhere.
Late last week, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, upped what it calls the National Preparedness Level to 4, one shy of the highest level, as competition for limited firefighting resources increased.
Here's a look at the major wildfires in the West:
Authorities say a wildfire that destroyed 45 homes on California's central coast was not intentionally set but they were still trying to determine the cause.
Cal Fire says arson has been ruled out in the 10-day blaze that has charred 64 square miles of dry brush and timber.
The fire was 39 percent surrounded and at least 2,400 people were under evacuation orders in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Additional warnings for people to be ready to flee were issued Wednesday and one arm of Lake Nacimiento was closed to boaters.
Cal Fire's Rich Eagan says flames were more than two miles from Hearst Castle, which remains closed but was no longer at immediate risk.
A fire burning for a month north of Big Sur grew again to 135 square miles. Hundreds of homes remain threatened by the fire in rugged wilderness coast along Highway 1. The blaze was sparked by an illegal campfire. It is 60 percent contained.
A fast-moving rangeland wildfire in eastern Idaho expanded to nearly 70 square miles Wednesday, forcing evacuations, threatening a windfarm and burning habitat needed by sage grouse, a federally protected bird.
The Bonneville County Sheriff's Office says evacuations are in place, with up to 70 buildings along U.S. Highway 26 threatened.
Officials say the human-caused fire reported Sunday about 7 miles east of Idaho Falls is making wind-driven runs to the north and east.
Officials say high winds are again predicted Wednesday along with low humidity.
In central Idaho, a 160-square-mile wildfire in a remote, mountainous area continues to defy containment and burn through timbered slopes that are difficult for firefighters to reach.
Cooler weather has slowed Montana's largest wildfire, though 45 homes are still evacuated and 130 more are on alert.
The fire northeast of Thompson Falls had burned 33 square miles as of Wednesday morning.
Fire officials say crews have made progress in securing fire lines and protecting structures. The weather was cooperating again Wednesday with lighter winds and higher relative humidity forecast.
Minimal fire activity is also being reported from a fire burning west of Lakeside.
About 75 homes and other structures are within a half-mile of the fire's perimeter. No evacuations have been ordered.
Firefighters in northern Utah are working to contain a growing wildfire near a ski resort that's now crossed the border into southern Idaho.
Fire spokeswoman Sierra Hellstrom said Wednesday that wind and high temperatures Tuesday afternoon had pushed the fire to 1.4 square miles.
It's burning about 23 miles northwest of Logan, and about one-fourth of a mile from the Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, which was on pre-evacuation notice this week.
Hellstrom says no buildings are imminently threatened at the resort.
Favorable weather conditions helped crews make progress Wednesday against a series of wildfires in Eastern Washington that have burned at least 18 homes this week.
A fire burning on the Spokane Indian Reservation was 30 percent contained. That fire covered more than 27 square miles and had destroyed at least 13 homes on the reservation, said Jamie Sijohn, a spokeswoman for the tribe.
"The devastating fire jumped the Spokane River from Lincoln County onto the Spokane reservation in three separate locations," Sijohn said.
It roared toward the town of Wellpinit, forcing the evacuation of the entire town on Sunday. But that order has since been lifted, Sijohn said.
Meanwhile, a fire near the town of Davenport in Lincoln County covered 6.5 square miles, and was 20 percent contained.
Another fire south of Spokane, in the Valleyford area, was 50 percent contained. It had burned more than 10 square miles and destroyed at least five homes, officials said. Mandatory evacuations ended on that fire on Tuesday night.
Some tourists heading to Yellowstone National Park during the busy summer season were facing an hourlong detour Wednesday as a wildfire in neighboring Grand Teton National Park kept a highway closed.
Major tourist areas in both parks are open as the National Park Service holds events to celebrate its 100th anniversary this week. A route leading into Yellowstone's South Entrance was shut down, so visitors coming from the south through Wyoming had to take a detour into Idaho.
But firefighters hope cooler weather slows the flames over the next couple of days.