Western U.S. continues to battle wildfires

Western U.S. continues to battle wildfires

Posted: Updated:
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

July of 2012 went down as the hottest on record for the lower 48. Now the hot and dry weather has moved out west, and has resulted in 70 wildfires across 14 states west of the Mississippi. Most of these wildfires have been caused by dry lightning.

The Western United States continues to battle these wildfires which are endangering homes and threatening to drive more people from their homes.

In central Washington state, the wind-whipped Taylor Bridge Fire had scorched some 28,000 acres and destroyed at least 60 homes.

One of those structures was the home of Elaine Burt, who unsuccessfully tried to get past firefighters to save her dogs and other animals at her home. The house burned down and all of her animals inside were killed.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire declared Kittitas and Yakima counties to be in states of emergency, according to a written statement from her office. The Washington National Guard will provide air support to the Department of Natural Resources, which is in charge of statewide firefighting efforts.

Authorities have already evacuated around 900 people near the Taylor Bridge Fire, the governor's office said. No injuries were reported.

More than 400 firefighters were battling the fire, which was only 10% contained Wednesday morning as it burned through timber and grasslands near Cle Elum, Washington.

Firefighters say they have their work cut out for them. The hot and dry conditions are expected to continue through the week.

Mother nature is not expected to provide much relief so it looks like firefighters will be battling these blazes for the rest of the month.

Elsewhere, more evacuations were under consideration near Featherville, Idaho, where more than 800 firefighters were trying to get a hand on the sprawling Trinity Ridge fire.

The fire grew significantly since Tuesday, forcing authorities to call an emergency meeting of residents of Featherville and nearby Pine to discuss possible evacuations.

Near the border between Oregon and California, crews were battling an aggressive southern run by the Barry Point Fire, which has torched some 48,000 acres of land in the two states, according to the incident command team's website.

With temperatures above 90 degrees, low humidity and wind gusts nearing 20 mph, the lightning-sparked fire has a high potential for further growth, the interagency center said, forcing the evacuation of homes in California, 15 miles south of the state border.

More than 800 firefighters and support personnel were working in Oregon and Nevada to corral the 432,378-acre Holloway Fire, the largest of the Western wildfires. It was ignited by a lightning strike on August 5.

For the first time since the fire began August 5, flames began to die down Tuesday night after rising as high as 15 feet earlier in the day, incident commanders reported.

They said Wednesday that they hope to have the Nevada portion of the fire out on Wednesday.

In California, a pair of fires in Lake County, north of San Francisco, burned 7,000 acres and were 30% contained Tuesday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Two buildings were destroyed and one was damaged. An additional 480 homes are threatened, and a firefighter was injured while battling the flames.

Meteorologists predict the dry heat will last into next week, not good news for firefighters. Any thunderstorms that pop up could present more bad news than good, since dry lightning strikes could spark more flames.

The photos here were taken by NOAA's polar orbiting satellites showing the smoke plumes.

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