Western wildfires: Blazes burn in 4 states amid hot weather

AP News
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Posted: Jun 18, 2015 10:30 PM
Western wildfires: Blazes burn in 4 states amid hot weather

Wildfires are chewing through parched parts of the West, where temperatures are rising Thursday. Here's a look at the latest hotspots and what crews are doing to control them.

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ALASKA

Two wildfires are burning outside Anchorage, one that tripled in size and forced the evacuation of campsites on the Kenai Peninsula and another in the heart of Alaska's dog mushing community that firefighters have kept from growing.

A blaze in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ballooned to about 14 square miles as temperatures warmed in low humidity. Eight structures — anything from a home to a chicken coop — have been destroyed since Monday.

More than 250 firefighters battled the blaze between a highway and the Kenai River, Alaska's most popular sport-fishing venue. Up to 500 more personnel are expected from the Lower 48 states.

More than 420 firefighters have kept another wildfire at about 12 square miles, this one in Willow, where the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race normally begins. Some residents were expected to return Thursday to the community about 40 miles north of Anchorage.

Fifty structures have been lost, including some homes, since the blaze began Sunday.

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ARIZONA

A smoky brush fire near a rural Arizona community was contained mainly to a dry riverbed, allowing most of the hundreds of evacuated residents to return home.

The flames have burned at least three residences near Kearny, about 85 miles southeast of Phoenix, and torn through nearly 2 square miles of salt cedar trees since Wednesday.

A handful of people who live close to a riverbed must stay away because of their homes' proximity to the fire, Arizona State Forestry spokesman Mike Reichling said. Some firefighters who faced triple-digit temperatures suffered heat-related problems, but there were no serious injuries, he said.

About 200 firefighters have kept it burning away from the town of 2,000 residents, officials said.

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CALIFORNIA

A Southern California desert wildfire burned three homes Thursday and another blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains grew to over 15 square miles as smaller blazes erupted in drought-parched areas up and down the state.

Small but fierce fires burned in grass, trees and brush.

A 60-acre fire erupted in a palm grove in the desert town of Thermal, 135 miles southeast of Los Angeles. By late afternoon, it had burned three homes and several outbuildings, state fire officials reported.

About an hour's drive northwest, a wildfire burning since Wednesday exploded in size in a remote area of the San Bernardino National Forest.

About 400 people, including residents of about two dozen homes and several hundred campers, many of them children, had been evacuated as the fire burned south of Big Bear Lake.

Other fires being fought included a 100-acre blaze in Yuba County in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento. More than a dozen homes were ordered evacuated after a training fire for state crews reportedly was swept out of control by gusty winds north of Smartsville.

Crews also fought a 35-acre wildfire in Mariposa County; a 50-acre blaze in San Joaquin County; and a 40-acre fire near the Central California rural town of Bootjack that briefly forced evacuations.

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WASHINGTON

A wildfire burning south of Spokane was under control but sent up a massive smoke column in eastern Washington.

Brian Schaeffer with the Spokane Fire Department says that air and ground crews got the less than 150-acre blaze halfway contained, Spokane news station KHQ-TV reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1JXNFFm ).