Firefighters battle blazes in U.S. Northwest and California
Wildfires have destroyed 50 homes in north central Idaho while a fire in north-central Washington had nearly doubled in size by Sunday, fire officials said.
Firefighters are also continuing to battle blazes in Oregon, Montana and the California wine region north of San Francisco, according to government officials. Dry conditions have fueled the spread the fires.
The Reach fire, sparked on Friday by lightning strikes and high winds, had doubled to 55,000 acres (22,250 hectares) by Sunday and nearly surrounded the town of Chelan, fire incident spokesman Wayne Patterson. He said the fire also had started other smaller blazes further north.
About 1,500 people have been evacuated from the area of Chelan, a town of about 4,000.
Patterson said better weather is helping to fight the blaze – the temperature was down 10 degrees Fahrenheit from the upper 90s (mid 30s Celsius) on Friday and winds were low. Power in Chelan has been restored.
Patterson said there were about 727 firefighters tackling the blaze, and the National Guard would be adding more troops on Sunday night or Monday. A Blackhawk helicopter was dropping water on the fire.
In Idaho, the fast-moving Clearwater Complex fire was 15-percent contained early on Sunday after burning 50 houses and 75 outbuildings on the outskirts of the community of Kamiah.
Dozens of people in neighborhoods outlying the tiny logging town were told last week to flee in the face of the blazes, among more than 100 burning across the northern, southwestern and east-central parts of the state and in neighboring Oregon and Washington, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
More than 770 fire personnel have been assigned to fight the blazes that make up the Clearwater Complex, which has scorched almost 53,000 acres (21,500 hectares) of dense spruce forests criss-crossed by river valleys containing rural communities, Idaho fire managers said in a statement.
One of the fires in the complex was blamed last week for destroying a house and triggering the evacuation of several homes near the community of Wieppe, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office.
On Sunday, residents of the unincorporated area of Greer, Idaho, were told they might have to evacuate, the sheriff’s office said on its website, though it was not clear how many people would be affected.