Western blazes stubborn, but progress made
Camp crews firefighters work to put out a wildfire at Waterman Canyon in San Bernardino, Calif., Monday July 9, 2012. The fire erupted shortly before 2 p.m. Monday along Highway 18 in Waterman Canyon, where residents have been asked to voluntarily leave. / LaFonzo Carter,AP Photo/San Bernardino Sun
(CBS/AP) BOISE, Idaho - Wind-fanned wildfires in southern Idaho are proving stubborn, but across the West as a whole, firefighters are gaining ground and keeping an eye on the weather.
More firefighters in the state were headed to a lightning-sparked fire which had spread to nearly 300 square miles sagebrush and dry grass by Monday, after igniting Saturday. At one point, it was threatening six homes in the Castleford area, west of Twin Falls.
"The fire has been pretty well laid down near Castleford," said Heather Tiel-Nelson, a spokeswoman for Bureau of Land Management.
A steady 20-mph wind has been pushing the blaze northwest, where crews were focusing their efforts, said BLM officials. Strong gusts also spread flames of a separate fire to the Saylor Creek bombing range, a training space operated by the Mountain Home Air Force Base, but no structures were threatened.
"The wind has been a big factor," said another BLM spokeswoman, Kyli Gough. "With these light fuels being the way they are, even a small amount of wind can pick up the fire and move it pretty quickly."
Elsewhere across the West, firefighters made progress in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, the site of the country's biggest active wildfire, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Active Fire Mapping Program (USDA Forest Service)
But forecasts for the rest of the week called for heat, lightning and wind across much of that area, which could fuel more blazes.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has lifted a statewide fire ban he ordered last month after recent rain, but some local officials, including ones in Garfield County, say they're keeping the ban in place. The rain washed out a main highway to Leadville and caused a mudslide in northern Colorado, creating problems in fire-ravaged areas now susceptible to mudslides.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has also warned about scam artists preying on wildfire victims and on people trying to donate to relief funds.
Suthers said Monday some residents have reported getting automated phone calls or visits from door-to-door solicitors seeking donations for fire victims. He says reputable charities don't gather contributions that way and suggests people give money only to groups they are familiar with.
Suthers also warned that disasters often draw scammers posing as contractors or repair specialists. He advised checking with the Better Business Bureau and asking companies for references and written contracts.
A press release from Suthers' office doesn't say whether any home-repair frauds have been reported.
Suthers also cautioned against paying exorbitant fees to independent insurance adjusters.
Federal fire officials say a wildfire in the Mendocino National Forest has grown to more 10,000 acres, forcing the closure of campgrounds and the evacuation of a handful of homes. More than 700 firefighters are battling the blaze as it burns in rugged terrain near Letts Lake. The fire is 40 percent contained. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Crews are also battling a separate blaze several miles to the east in Colusa County. The fire started Sunday and consumed about 1,600 acres. By Tuesday morning it was 10 percent contained.
A wildfire that has burned more than 390 squares miles in southeastern Montana was 90 percent contained.
A separate fire in the same region of the state, near Fort Howes, was 65 percent contained after blackening nearly 97 square miles.
Authorities braced for an outbreak of wildfires after the National Weather Service said conditions in central and eastern parts of the state were ripe for fires.
Fire officials say a massive wildfire burning across southeast Oregon grassland prompted the evacuation of an Oregon Transportation Department station and temporarily halted southbound traffic on U.S. Highway 95.
Federal Bureau of Land Management spokesman Mark Wilkening said the fast-growing Long Draw Fire south of Burns Junction was ignited by lightning. It grew to 30,000 acres overnight Sunday and by Monday evening had burned across 45,000 acres or 70 square miles.
He says the Transportation Department station did not burn. By late Monday, traffic was once more moving on Highway 95.
Another southeast Oregon fire west of Frenchglen has blackened 2,800 acres of BLM rangeland. It is zero percent contained.
In northeast Oregon, a fast-moving weekend grass fire burned two apartment buildings in Pendleton. Fire Chief Gary Woodson tells The Oregonian that the Saturday fire displaced as many as 75 people.
The BLM's Wilkening says three grass fires near Brogan in eastern Oregon have burned more than 2,500 acres.
A blaze in Grant County, east of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, burned nearly 300 acres and is 50 percent contained.
Wyoming's largest fire, burning about 150 square miles northwest of Wheatland, was 75 percent contained.
In Utah, cooler temperatures and rain helped firefighters with the state's largest wildfire. The 108,000-acre blaze in Millard and Juab counties was 91 percent contained, officials said.
A human-caused wildfire has burned 675 acres between Entiat and Chelan.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is lifting all fire restrictions in New Mexico, after more areas in the state recently received rainfall or saw increased humidity levels.
BLM spokesman Stephen Baker said even though restrictions have been lifted residents should still be cautious on BLM land since the region is still dry.
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