Lightning, heat keep West's wildfires going
Firefighters continue battle despite weather and terrain
Saturday, August 18, 2012
SEATTLE -- Thunderstorms and lightning threatened fire officials' plans to contain a large blaze in central Washington as hundreds of Washington and California residents returned home to find out whether their homes still existed.
In Idaho, authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation Saturday for some 350 homes around Featherville due to thick smoke. That town and Pine, both recreation getaways 105 miles northeast of Boise, are in the path of a 130-square-mile fire that has been burning for two weeks.
Fire managers were concerned that poor visibility could hamper the evacuation, fire spokesman David Eaker said. The smoke also prevented retardant bombers from reaching the fire and aerial reconnaissance flights from locating the fire's leading edge.
The Trinity Ridge Fire burning through timber grew 15 square miles overnight. High temperatures combined with low humidity and difficult terrain made it harder for the 1,082 firefighters assigned to the blaze. Fire spokeswoman Lisa Machnik said Saturday that three firefighters injured ankles or knees in the rough terrain.
In Utah, evacuations were ordered for two housing developments after three fires were reported near the Jordanelle Reservoir east of Park City. The three had burned a total of about 400 acres, the Deseret News reported.
Many residents in Washington were returning to the south and east sides of a 35-square-mile blaze near Cle Elum, about 75 miles east of Seattle. That fire burned out of control for much of the week, destroying 70 residential properties and 210 other structures on the east side of the Cascades.
Nearly 1,000 firefighters and other personnel and eight helicopters were still building a line around the fire, which started Monday at a bridge construction project.
Firefighters in California made progress on some of the state's nearly dozen wildfires, but fire officials said lightning sparked more than a dozen new blazes, most of them small, in Northern California late Friday and early Saturday.