Western wildfires: California fire grows, forces evacuations

AP News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2015 11:29 PM
Western wildfires: California fire grows, forces evacuations

Wildfires are charging through several dry Western states, including a blaze in California that showed new life after burning for a week and forced residents of some communities to flee their homes. A look at the latest hotspots and what crews are doing to control them:

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

A huge forest fire that has been burning through rugged terrain in the San Bernardino Mountains for more than a week forced evacuations and threatened thousands of homes and other structures as it stretched northeast into the desert.

The blaze about 90 miles east of Los Angeles roared to new life as winds shifted. The tiny Mojave communities of Burns Canyon and Rimrock were ordered to leave their homes Thursday. Evacuations were voluntary in nearby Pioneertown.

A change in wind direction also forced several hundred campers to evacuate Wednesday.

Crews relied on retardant-dropping aircraft to battle the hard-to-reach fire, which began June 17 in mountain wilderness. Officials say they had to temporarily ground air tankers for safety reasons after a hobbyist's drone flew over the fire, but flights resumed Thursday.

It has charred 40 square miles of old-growth timber and brush and was about 20 percent contained.

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

A wildfire has grown to more than 26 square miles in inaccessible terrain south of Lake Tahoe and has led to some voluntary evacuations, officials said Thursday.

No buildings have been damaged, but the small mountain town of Markleeville is under a voluntary evacuation warning, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Several campgrounds were evacuated earlier in the week, and two highways have been closed.

About 900 firefighters are battling the blaze ignited by lightning Friday about 20 miles west of the Nevada border and they had the blaze 15 percent contained.

Meanwhile, crews have contained a 533-acre fire about 50 miles east of San Francisco near Antioch that had led some 30 homes to be evacuated Wednesday night, news station KNTV reported. No structures were damaged.

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ALASKA

Wildfires in Alaska are spreading, but there have been no new evacuations from threatened communities.

Twenty-one new fires were logged in the state on Wednesday, according to the latest figures available. That brings the total to nearly 300 fires burning almost 945 square miles, with much of the activity in Alaska's dry and hot interior. Some places are so smoky that flights have been grounded, even for fire crews.

The latest numbers show a growth of more than 300 square miles from the official tally of the day before.

Fire information spokesman Tim Mowry said that's not surprising, given the number and sizes of fires in the state.

Mowry said there were days of growth larger than that during a record wildfire year in 2004, when nearly 10,300 square miles burned.

Fire managers are prioritizing where to send fire crews stretched thin as older fires wind down.

Earlier this week, residents in threatened communities and rural neighborhoods fled during voluntary evacuations.

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OREGON

A wildfire scorching a remote part of southwestern Oregon has grown to more than 8 square miles, but hundreds of firefighters have worked to get it more than halfway contained.

Incident commander Doug Johnson said heat, lower humidity, gusty winds and possible thunderstorms are expected this week, which will test the containment lines. He says firefighters will remain vigilant.

The lightning-sparked blaze started June 11 and is burning in the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest.