Firefighters fight blazes across U.S Northwest, California wine region

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 14, 2015 1:50 PM

By Eric M. Johnson and Curtis Skinner

SEATTLE/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - More than a thousand residents in north-central Washington state fled their homes on Friday after a cluster of wildfires erupted around the town of Chelan, while fierce blazes blackened a swath of the drought-stricken U.S. West, officials said.

Firefighters were also dealing with wildfires in Idaho, Oregon, and Montana, while crews battling a wildfire near California's celebrated wine region north of San Francisco managed to draw containment lines around more than half of a 24,555-acre (9,940-hectare) blaze that forced about 150 people from their homes.

The so-called Jerusalem Fire forced some residents to evacuate twice in as many weeks after first being displaced by the Rocky Fire, California's fiercest blaze this season.

In north-central Washington state, more than a thousand residents were ordered from their homes after several wildfires erupted in the area, damaging numerous structures, said Chelan County Sheriff's Office spokesman Rich Magnussen.

"The entire town of Chelan is without power and gas stations cannot pump fuel," Magnussen said, adding that emergency officials were helping residents, some of whom depend on bottled oxygen, leave an assisted-living facility.

To the north, a single-engine Cessna 182 aircraft crashed near Oroville on Thursday near the border with Canada, killing two and sparking a wildfire, U.S. aviation and transportation officials said.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but another blaze that broke out nearby continued to burn and crossed into Canada, said Okanogan County emergency manager Maurice Goodall.

The Wolverine Fire about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Chelan covers 37,792 acres (15,290 hectares) and was about a third contained, according to the InciWeb fire information center.

That blaze forced about 360 people to be evacuated from a camping area in the year-round Lutheran retreat of Holden Village, where the fire remains active, fire officials said.

In Montana, the Sucker Creek Fire in the Helena National Forest has forced dozens of people from their homes on the edge of the forest since Thursday, National Forest Service spokeswoman Kathy Bushnell said.

In northern Idaho, wind-driven wildfires burning out of control prompted authorities on Friday to order the evacuation of dozens of homes on the outskirts of a small mountain town of Kamiah.

Another blaze northeast of Kamiah consumed one home and triggered more evacuation orders, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.

In Oregon, more than 100 homes have been evacuated from the Canyon Creek Complex Fire burning in Grant County, among 14 major fires burning in the state, the governor's office said.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham, Victoria Cavaliere and Nick Macfie)