Firefighter killed as wildfires rage across West

AP News
Posted: Aug 14, 2012 1:23 AM
Firefighter killed as wildfires rage across West

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A firefighter was killed in Idaho and another firefighter in Oregon suffered burns after she had to deploy her emergency fire shelter as wildfires raged across the western United States.

Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old firefighter, was killed Sunday after she was struck by a falling tree while working on a fire near Orofino in northern Idaho, the U.S. Forest Service said.

"The Forest Service is devastated by the loss of one of our own," Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said.

The incident is under investigation. Veseth, of Moscow, Idaho, was in her second season as a firefighter. Her older brother is a wild land firefighter in Idaho, where 12 blazes are burning.

In southeastern Oregon, a firefighter was forced to crawl into her emergency shelter in an area overrun by swirling winds filled with fire. She was treated at a Nevada hospital Sunday for minor burns to a leg and forearm and minor smoke inhalation. As a precaution, she was being sent to a burn center in Salt Lake City for evaluation, fire spokesman Chris Rose said.

The rest of her 20-person federal crew made it to a safety zone. They have been pulled off the fire as that incident is under investigation.

The Holloway Fire has so far burned about 653 square miles in remote and rugged terrain straddling the Oregon-Nevada border. On the Nevada side, five ranches have been evacuated in the Kings River Valley.

In Utah, firefighters made gains throughout the weekend on several blazes across the state as more mild temperatures coupled with sporadic rain and humidity helped with containment.

The lightning-sparked Faust Fire, which had threatened a herd of wild horses and shut down the historic Pony Express Road in Utah's west desert, consumed about 34 square miles but was expected to be fully contained late Monday, said state fire spokeswoman Cami Lee.

Meanwhile, crews in Northern California were making progress against an aggressive wildfire in Lake County that has grown to more than 9 square miles.

After it forced the evacuation of nearly 500 homes since it began Sunday, officials allowed residents to return late Monday, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection,

"The fire is still actively burning, but burning in a remote area," Berlant said. "It's burning in brush that's tinder dry and hasn't seen a fire in decades."

Three buildings were destroyed and two people were treated for minor injuries. The blaze, which started as two separate fires, but was being treated as one incident, was 25 percent contained.

In far Northern California, the Chips Fire was threatening about 600 homes, prompting some evacuation orders in the Seneca and Rush Creek communities in Plumas National Forest. The fire spread toward the north and had burned about 55 square miles, officials said.

The cause remains under investigation.

About 50 miles to the northwest, a fire in Lassen Volcanic National Park remained steady at 28 square miles, fire spokeswoman Yvonne Jones said Monday. The Reading Fire has forced the closure of Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway and several trails as it burns in an area of pine forests and thick brush.

Officials said the blaze was ignited July 23 and is one of a number of recent fires sparked by lightning.

In Southern California, lightning strikes in hot and dry areas of San Diego County caused a series of fires that together burned about 1.5 square miles.

Three other lightning-sparked fires were burning out of control northeast of Julian but none were threatening any structures. Joshua Tree National Park officials said a fire there has burned up to 300 acres, with flames moving through rocky, tree-covered hillsides. The scenic Keys View Road has been closed.

To the north, strong winds fanned a blaze in central Washington state that destroyed at least two dozen structures Monday. An unknown number of homes were among those burned in the fast-moving fire, estimated by officials as between 3 and 4 square miles.


Associated Press writers John Miller in Boise, Idaho; Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore.; Brian Skoloff in Salt Lake City, and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.