Idaho Wildfires Force Evacuations

Idaho Wildfires Force Evacuations

15 August 2007

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Id., USA — Dozens of people were ordered to evacuate two small central Idaho towns on Tuesday as an 88-square-mile group of fires moved in their direction.

A caravan was organized to lead residents of Yellow Pine and Johnson Creek over a closed road to McCall, about 30 miles to the west, dispatcher Stacie Branum said. That road had been closed because of fire danger but was passable at times, said fire information officer Susan Marzec.

Residents also had fled from around the central Idaho towns of Warm Lake in the Boise National Forest and Secesh, Warren and South Fork in the Payette National Forest, where more than 150 homes, five commercial properties and nearly 390 other structures were threatened by a 95-square-mile complex of fires, spokeswoman Kris Eriksen said.

Another group of fires southeast of McCall in the Boise National Forest had spread across more than 134 square miles, fire managers said. Officials were forced to shut off power lines between Scott Valley and Yellow Pine, leaving hundreds of people without power.

In north-central Idaho, the community of Comstock was threatened by a 94-square-mile fire in the Nez Perce National Forest, officials said.

Across Idaho, hundreds of homes are threatened by wildfires that have blackened more than 500,000 acres, or 781 square miles, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Authorities in central Washington ordered about 180 people to evacuate two vacation communities along Lake Chelan on Tuesday out of concern that a wildfire could block their only road out. The blaze west of the lake had spread across 1,700 acres, or less than 3 square miles, the Chelan County sheriff’s office said.

About 300 firefighters and four helicopters were working the blaze, which was burning in steep terrain in the Wenatchee National Forest. The fire was 10 percent contained Tuesday, said fire information officer Mark Morrow.

Firefighters had contained a 550-acre fire that damaged one home near Ephrata, about 40 miles east of Wenatchee.

In Montana, a fire burned through a 60-home subdivision between Columbus and Park City, sending fire crews and residents scrambling, said Ken Mesch of Stillwater County disaster and emergency services.

None of the homes was lost as the 250- to 300-acre blaze quickly passed through the grass and trees of the subdivision near Interstate 90, said Jeff Bollman of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Resident Jo Stewart said she got a call from a friend warning her of the fire and looked outside to see flames approaching up the hillside.

“It took no time for it to cross the road and go up the hill,” Stewart said of the blaze. “My horses are still up there, and we’re waiting so we can go see them.”

Another fast-moving wildfire shut down part of a highway Tuesday evening and prompted evacuations near Evaro, north of Missoula. Firefighters were placing engines at 15 to 20 homes as the blaze grew to about 400 acres.

“It looks like this will be more complex to manage than we thought,” said Jamie Kirby of the natural resources department.

Residents of about 300 homes who fled during the weekend remained out of their homes Tuesday because of a blaze near the community of Seeley Lake, Mont., northeast of Missoula. That wildfire had charred more than 21,000 acres, or about 33 square miles, and was just 9 percent contained Tuesday, fire officials said.

Crews battling that fire were preparing for stormy weather expected later this week, said fire information officer Pete Buist.

A Wyoming wildfire that had closed the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park was less active Tuesday, allowing tourists to enter the park from that approach for the first time in two days. While that gate was closed, tourists driving from Cody, Wyo., had to detour 29 miles to the park’s northeast entrance on the Montana line. More than 208,000 visitors passed through the east gate this year through July.

The blaze, just a few miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance, had blackened some 12,000 acres, or more than 15 square miles, and firefighters said they had yet to begin carving a fire break around the fire.

In California, a small brush fire broke out in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park Tuesday, prompting about 700 visitors to flee the landmark observatory.

The roughly 5-acre fire was reported around 4 p.m. downhill from the Griffith Observatory, city fire spokesman Ron Myers said. Water-dropping helicopters knocked down most of the flames more than an hour later, he said. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

A wildfire blackened 820 acres of Griffith Park in May, forcing the closure of the three-domed observatory, a zoo and other facilities in the sprawling urban park.

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