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Wildfires In Nine States

Crews battling wildfires that had destroyed 58 homes and blackened more than 110 square miles faced a threat of thunderstorms that could produce lightning capable of starting new blazes — or heavy rain that would flood the newly denuded land.

"We're definitely concerned," said Karen Guillemin, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

The National Weather Service said there was about a 30 percent chance of storms in the region, roughly 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

Ruben Grijalva, director of the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told CBS Radio News that the department is "still concerned that there may be additional lightning strikes and new starts, we are also concerned about any rain that may come in large quantities."

Large wildfires are burning in nine states, most in the West, according to the National Fire Information Center in Boise, Idaho. Two major fires in the California desert have merged, which fire officials describe as a positive development.

"The fact that they burned together makes it easier for us because now we're only dealing with one perimeter," said Wayne Barringer, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry.

One area of the fire, spanning about 97 square miles, was 60 percent contained, fire officials said. An adjacent fire had grown to more than 23 square miles since merging with the larger fire and was 10 percent contained, officials said. Crews protected a handful of homes in a canyon, but there were no evacuations.

The body of a man who had been missing since one of the fires rushed through historic Pioneertown, Calif., last week was found Saturday, said Cindy Beavers of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

The cause of death remained under investigation, but the body of Gerald Guthrie was found in a charred area less than a half-mile from his home, which escaped the flames that destroyed desert scrub and Joshua trees.

CBS News' Karen Brown reports that the 57-year-old was found dead after telling a family member he was going to evacuate his remote home.

Now other residents aren't taking chances.

"We want to make sure we are prepared," said resident Scott Miller, whose family has brought in its own water tank and has been clearing brush as the fire moves closer to their home, Brown reports.

Crews have made some progress on the fires, which cover about 75,000 acres.

A mandatory evacuation remains in effect for one small canyon but has been lifted in several other areas. That blaze had destroyed 58 desert houses and many outbuildings.

Fire officials estimated damage at more than $8.4 million and firefighting costs at $10.3 million.

An adjacent group of fires had grown to more than 15,000 acres since merging with the larger fire and was 10 percent contained, officials said. There were no evacuations.

The fires had burned into the San Bernardino National Forest but were not considered immediate threats to communities at higher elevations in the Big Bear Lake region.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the area by helicopter on Saturday.

"It is a huge fire. It is really extraordinary how quickly it has spread out," Schwarzenegger said later.

Elsewhere in Southern California, a 500-acre blaze at Redlands was fully contained Sunday after destroying one building. It broke out Friday night and initially threatened 100 homes.

In San Diego County, a 260-acre wildfire about 10 miles east of Julian, California, also was fully contained, said forestry department spokeswoman Roxanne Provaznik.

Firefighters in southern Montana were battling major fires that charred about 185,000 acres, mostly east of Billings. About 125 homes were potentially threatened, officials said.

In Wyoming, a wind shift helped firefighters keep a wildfire from advancing toward Devils Tower National Monument. Four fires about 5 miles southwest of Devils Tower have burned about 13,700 acres — about 21 square miles — of mostly brush and ponderosa pine. About 10 percent of the fires were contained.

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