National News

Cooler temps and lower winds help California firefighters

Posted July 10

Firefighters on Monday made progress against wildfires burning across numerous states in the hot, dry West.

That included California, where slightly cooler temperatures and diminishing winds helped firefighters as they battled several wildfires that have forced thousands to flee their homes in both ends of the state.

Here's a closer look at the fires burning in the western United States and Canada.

CALIFORNIA

An estimated 4,000 people have evacuated their homes as flames raced through foothills in the Sierra Nevada, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Sacramento. The Oroville fire has blackened 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) of grass. It's 35 percent contained.

In Southern California, at least 3,500 people evacuated as two fires raged at separate ends of Santa Barbara County. The largest fire has charred more than 45 square miles (116 square kilometers) of dry brush and is threatening more than 130 rural homes. It's 15 percent contained.

About 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the south, a 17-square-mile (44-square-kilometer) blaze shut down State Route 154 and sent weekend campers scrambling for safety. It's just 5 percent contained.

"The sky sure is brown," said Therese Vannier of Goleta, California, in Santa Barbara County, on Monday. She said falling ash covered vehicles with a white powder. "The ash makes our eyes sting so bad," Vannier said.

"People are walking around covering their faces and wearing masks," said Dana Ross of Goleta.

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COLORADO

Firefighters are making progress battling wildfires burning in Colorado. As of Monday, crews have been able to build containment lines around 85 percent of the fire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people near Breckenridge last week.

In northwestern Colorado, a wildfire burning near Dinosaur National Monument is 40 percent contained. Portions of the 20-square-mile (52-square- kilometer) Peekaboo Fire has spread into steep, rocky terrain without a lot of fuel.

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ARIZONA

In Arizona, rain has helped firefighters working a wildfire in mountains overlooking Tucson while also creating unsafe conditions for the crews.

Fire management officials say monsoon rains "hit the bullseye" Sunday, dropping more than 1 inch of rain in one area of the Santa Catalina Mountains. However, the rain also caused flooding and washed out roads and was accompanied by lightning, forcing firefighters to pause their work.

The fire has burned 42.6 square miles (110.3 square kilometers) of grass, brush and timber since starting June 30. Its cause is under investigation. It is 51 percent contained.

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MONTANA

Crews are gaining the upper hand on a fire burning south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in north-central Montana.

The July fire has burned more than 16 square miles (43 square kilometers) in the Little Rocky Mountains and has threatened the surrounding towns of Zortman, Landusky, Hays and Lodgepole.

The fire was 50 percent contained Monday morning. Crews were working to protect structures in the four towns while reinforcing fire lines and trying to prevent it from spreading to the reservation.

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IDAHO

A wildfire burning in southwestern Idaho has grown to about 62.5 square miles (100.5 square kilometers) overnight, forcing the closure and evacuation of Bruneau Dunes State Park. Officials say the blaze is expected to grow because of the extremely dry and windy conditions surrounding the area.

Officials suspect lightning may have caused the fire on Sunday just southeast of Bruneau. The Owyhee County sheriff's office evacuated the park Sunday evening.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA

A crew of 21 firefighters from New Brunswick is headed across the country to help battle forest fires in British Columbia. At least 220 fires are burning and more than 8,500 people have been forced from their homes, including about 1,500 ordered out of 100 Mile House, British Columbia, on Sunday night.

Julien Bourque of Rogersville, New Brunswick, said he's eager to help. "They have quite a few fires there and seem pretty busy, so they need help from other provinces," he said.

The New Brunswickers are among about 300 firefighters being sent to British Columbia from other parts of the country. The Canadian Armed Forces is already helping residents affected by evacuations and airlifting emergency workers and equipment.

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