Western wildfires: Crews try to wrangle blazes in 4 states

A truck drives past a heavy plume of smoke from a wildfire next to the Interstate 5 freeway in Santa Clarita, Calif., Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Hundreds of firefighters are trying to protect homes from the wildfire ripping through brushy canyonlands north of Los Angeles. The fire began in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita on the shoulder of Interstate 5. (Christopher Brown via AP)

Wildfires are sweeping through several dry Western states, including a massive blaze burning out of control in Northern California. A look at the latest hotspots and what crews are doing to control them:

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

A wildfire has grown to 26 square miles in hazardous and inaccessible terrain south of Lake Tahoe and is moving closer to structures, officials said.

No buildings have been damaged, but the mountain town of Markleeville remained on standby Wednesday for possible evacuations, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Several campgrounds have been evacuated, and two highways have been closed.

The fire, ignited by lightning Friday, was not at all contained Wednesday.

Air tankers and helicopters helped hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze about 20 miles west of the Nevada border. One firefighter received a heat-related injury Tuesday.

Strong erratic winds and severe drought conditions have stoked the fire, and smoke can be seen as far away as Carson City, Nevada.

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Hundreds of firefighters were trying to protect homes from a wildfire ripping through brushy canyonlands north of Los Angeles.

The fire in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita began Wednesday afternoon and grew to 85 acres. People began evacuating a mobile home park, and 15 to 20 houses are also nearby.

Los Angeles County fire Capt. Keith Mora says winds gusting to 28 mph are blowing embers that have started spot fires. Flames are roaring up ridges, pouring heavy smoke.

More than 200 county firefighters, along with city and U.S. Forest Service crews, were on the scene, and aircraft were dropping water.

Meanwhile, crews relied on retardant-dropping aircraft to battle a huge forest fire that has been burning for a week in an inaccessible area of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The blaze about 90 miles east of Los Angeles was partially contained after burning nearly 30 square miles of old-growth timber. Smoke wafted more than 200 miles northeast, prompting a health advisory in the Las Vegas.

No buildings have been lost, but several hundred people were forced to leave camps and vacation homes.

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ALASKA

Growing wildfires have led to more evacuations in Alaska’s parched interior, with an international mushing champion evacuating his dogs from one of two communities where residents voluntarily fled their homes.

More than 270 fires are burning in Alaska, including one near Eureka that led Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race champion Brent Sass to evacuate his dogs to Fairbanks, news station KTUU reported.

In Tanana, a tribal nonprofit flew 62 people 130 miles to Fairbanks, focusing on elders, children and people with health conditions. The Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of 42 villages in the interior, also flew six people from the village of Hughes Tuesday as a precaution in case it gets worse in that village, which is about 10 miles from a fire.

An area just north of Fairbanks also faced an evacuation advisory. Fairbanks, the interior’s largest city, also has been smoky because of fires in the region even though it hasn’t been directly touched by any flames.

There were 40 new fires reported Tuesday, bringing the total of active fires to 278. Altogether, fires have burned nearly 636 square miles.

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OREGON

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

Incident commander Doug Johnson said fire lines will be tested in the coming days by a heat wave expected to bring triple-digit temperatures to the region.

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

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WASHINGTON

Cooler temperatures have helped temper the growth of a wildfire burning in Olympic National Park.

The fire was estimated at about 1 1/2 square miles Wednesday morning. The 950-acre blaze is burning high in the tree tops in a wilderness area about 13 miles north of Quinault. No structures were threatened.

Fire managers say they’re monitoring the blaze and fighting it when it’s safe.

Park official Todd Rankin says the fire is very unusual for this time of year. It was caused by a lightning strike in late May.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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