Crews battling 35 large, uncontained wildfires in the West


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Thirty-five large, uncontained wildfires are burning in the West, and firefighters are making initial attacks on another 112 new fires trying to prevent them from getting big.

Firefighters in the region mostly faced continued windy, dry conditions Wednesday that have fanned flames that destroyed buildings and forced evacuations in California, Washington, Idaho and elsewhere.

Late last week the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, upped what it calls the National Preparedness Level to 4, one shy of the highest level, as competition for limited firefighting resources increased.

Here’s a look at the major wildfires in the West:

CALIFORNIA

A wildfire that has destroyed 45 homes on California’s central coast continues to grow, and more residents are being warned to get ready to evacuate.

Cal Fire said Wednesday that the 10-day-old blaze has charred nearly 64 square miles of dry brush and timber. The fire is 39 percent surrounded after being stuck at 35 percent for several days.

At least 2,400 people are under evacuation orders in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Additional evacuation warnings were issued Wednesday.

Cal Fire’s Rich Eagan says flames are more than 2 miles from Hearst Castle, which remains closed but is no longer threatened.

A fire burning for a month north of Big Sur grew again to 135 square miles. Hundreds of homes remain threatened by the fire in rugged wilderness coast along Highway 1. It is 60 percent contained.

IDAHO

A fast-moving rangeland wildfire in eastern Idaho expanded to nearly 70 square miles Wednesday, forcing evacuations, threatening a windfarm and burning habitat needed by sage grouse, a federally protected bird.

The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office says evacuations are in place, with up to 70 buildings along U.S. Highway 26 threatened.

Officials say the human-caused fire reported Sunday about 7 miles east of Idaho Falls is making wind-driven runs to the north and east.

Officials say high winds are again predicted Wednesday along with low humidity.

In central Idaho, a 160-square-mile wildfire in a remote, mountainous area continues to defy containment and burn through timbered slopes that are difficult for firefighters to reach.

NEVADA

Officials in Las Vegas are blaming poor air quality and a smoky haze in southern Nevada on wildfires in coastal and mountain areas of California.

A Clark County Department of Air Quality advisory issued Wednesday cites smoke and ozone from fires burning hundreds of miles to the northwest. The advisory remains in effect through Thursday.

UTAH

Firefighters in northern Utah are working to contain a growing wildfire near a ski resort that’s now crossed the border into southern Idaho.

Fire spokeswoman Sierra Hellstrom said Wednesday that wind and high temperatures Tuesday afternoon had pushed the fire to 1.4 square miles.

It’s burning about 23 miles northwest of Logan, and about one-fourth of a mile from the Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, which was on pre-evacuation notice this week.

Hellstrom says no buildings are imminently threatened at the resort.

WASHINGTON

Favorable weather conditions helped crews make progress Wednesday against a series of wildfires in Eastern Washington that have burned at least 18 homes this week.

A fire burning on the Spokane Indian Reservation was 30 percent contained. That fire covered more than 27 square miles and had destroyed at least 13 homes on the reservation, said Jamie Sijohn, a spokeswoman for the tribe.

“The devastating fire jumped the Spokane River from Lincoln County onto the Spokane reservation in three separate locations,” Sijohn said.

It roared toward the town of Wellpinit, forcing the evacuation of the entire town on Sunday. But that order has since been lifted, Sijohn said.

Meanwhile, a fire near the town of Davenport in Lincoln County covered 6.5 square miles, and was 20 percent contained.

Another fire south of Spokane, in the Valleyford area, was 50 percent contained. It had burned more than 10 square miles and destroyed at least five homes, officials said. Mandatory evacuations ended on that fire on Tuesday night.

WYOMING

Some tourists heading to Yellowstone National Park during the busy summer season are facing an hourlong detour Wednesday as a wildfire in neighboring Grand Teton National Park kept a highway closed.

Major tourist areas in both parks are open as the National Park Service holds events to celebrate its 100th anniversary this week. A route leading into Yellowstone’s South Entrance was shut down, so visitors coming from the south through Wyoming had to take a detour into Idaho.

But firefighters hope cooler weather slows the flames over the next couple of days.