High winds, dry conditions hinder fire crews

Monday, July 31, 2006

RENO, Nev. -- High wind hampered fire crews again Sunday as they fought a wildfire that had dashed across nearly 300 square miles of remote rangeland in northern Nevada.

The brush fire 50 miles northeast of Winnemucca had exploded from less than 30 square miles to 292 square miles since Thursday, making it one of the nation's biggest wildfires of the season, fire information officer Susan Marzec said.

No buildings had been damaged, but the blaze posed a potential risk to the tiny towns of Midas and Tuscarora as well as scattered ranches. Flames were within 3 miles of Midas and 11 miles of Tuscarora.

"The fire is continuing to make its move because of gusty winds and dryness," Marzec said. "Every time we make headway we're back where we started."

The fire was just 5 percent contained and no estimate was available on when it would be fully contained.

Also only 5 percent contained was a blaze just west of Sisters, Ore., that had charred nearly 9 square miles.

Three subdivisions, housing about 1,500 people, had been ordered evacuated near the popular tourist town in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

Firefighters said they expected a break from the weather with lighter wind, but Marc Hollen of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland, Ore., said no significant gains in containment are likely before today.

The fire was given high priority because of dense vegetation acting as fuel and the area's growing popularity for retirement and second homes.

Elsewhere, a wildfire feeding on trees, juniper brush and sage had spread across nearly 20 square miles in southeastern Wyoming, near Hartville, deputy state forester Dan Perko said Sunday.

No homes have been lost in the fire, but a 35-mile section of state highway was closed and Perko said one or two ranches could be threatened.

In Montana, a wildfire in the eastern part of Glacier National Park came within a mile of structures as strong winds hastened the fire's growth Sunday. The fire was 34 square miles, said fire information officer Shannon Downey.

People were asked to evacuate one campground, and authorities closed another, along with trails in the area, park officials said.

Near Chelan, Wash., crews used explosives to create a barrier protecting the resort town of Stehekin from a 7-square-mile wildfire. Residents and visitors were warned to be ready to evacuate if necessary.

Wildfires continued to rage Sunday in the Nebraska Panhandle.

Officials had been most concerned about the fires near Chadron, where three homes were destroyed, several others damaged, and the campus of Chadron State College seriously threatened before firefighters managed to turn the flames back.

Between 200 and 350 residents in three subdivisions south of Chadron and Chadron State Park were also evacuated Saturday as the fire grew.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: