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Firefighters Hopeful Weather Will Slow Western Wildfires - 2001-08-20


Firefighters in the Western United States are hopeful they will get help from the weather this week, as they continue battling several large blazes. The worst of the fires Monday appeared to be in Washington State.

Fire crews were hard at work Monday near the tourist village of Leavenworth, Washington. They were trying to clear about 50 kilometers of paths through the forest to serve as barriers to contain one of eight major wildfires burning in the state.

Their hopes of stopping the advancing flames are boosted by cooler weather and a forecast for as much as five centimeters of rain on Tuesday. There is also a chance of snow at higher elevations.

Officials say the rain will not be enough to put out the fires, but should be sufficient to contain them, while firefighters try to extinguish them, and douse smoldering trees that could re-ignite.

A cluster of fires in the Leavenworth area was started by lightning about a week ago. Fifty homes were evacuated, but none has been destroyed. Residents of about 30 homes were allowed to return Monday.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, says ten large new fires were reported in the Western United States Sunday night, bringing to 40 the number of such blazes burning in the region.

More than 21,000 firefighters are working in Western U.S. forests, including about 800 around Leavenworth, Washington. In addition, the U.S. Army is training about 800 troops to help throughout the West.

Firefighters elsewhere in the region have had mixed success during the last day. In California, a large fire burning about 250 kilometers north of San Francisco was expected to be fully contained by Monday night. It had destroyed 30 buildings during the past 12 days.

In Utah, about 400 campers were evacuated from Dry Mountain, about 100 kilometers from Salt Lake City, as a fire in that area continued to spread.

About 40 homes were evacuated Sunday along both sides of the Idaho-Wyoming line because of a fire in the Caribou National Forest.

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