By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - More than 1,000 Wyoming residents displaced by a wildfire have been allowed to return to their homes as firefighters gained the upper hand on a blaze that destroyed 13 residences and numerous outbuildings, fire officials said on Wednesday.
Evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday night for residents of outlying neighborhoods of Casper, Wyoming's second-largest city, as firefighters secured containment lines around more than half the blaze's perimeter and gained significant ground amid slowing winds, the officials said.
A state fire marshal is investigating what started the blaze, which broke out on Saturday in a brush pile at a Casper landfill.
Flames driven by winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour and fueled by a persistent drought quickly engulfed more than 10,000 acres of dry grasslands and parched trees. Authorities ordered the evacuation of more than 220 homes with more than 1,000 residents.
Winds were expected to be lighter on Wednesday, helping firefighters as they battle one of several blazes that have broken out in the Northern Rockies late in the year at a time when the fire season would usually be winding down.
Federal fire managers warned earlier this year of worsening fire threats in the U.S. West tied to climate changes bringing less moisture and higher-than-average temperatures.
Those conditions, paired with strong winds during the 2015 season, brought the largest fire on record in Washington state.
Wildfires broke out early in Western states this year and are igniting late in a pattern that fire managers have warned may become the norm. Blazes have blackened more than 9.2 million acres across the United States so far this year, compared with a 10-year average of nearly 6.4 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Idaho fire managers reported on Wednesday that a wildfire in the southwestern part of the state was 35 percent contained and no longer posed a direct threat to neighborhoods outside the mountain community of Idaho City.
The fire, which is suspected to be human-caused, has charred 4,500 acres of sagebrush and scattered conifer stands, destroyed three cabins and pushed smoke pollution to unhealthy levels in surrounding cities including Boise.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)