Firefighters battle over 70 large blazes in western US | News | DW | 17.08.2012
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Firefighters battle over 70 large blazes in western US

Thousands of firefighters have battled to control more than 70 wildfires which are raging across the western United Sates. Over 2.4 million hectares have burned so far, with no relief in sight.

According to the US Forest Service, more than 70 large fires were burning across several states, as fire crews battled to get blazes under control. Dry, windy conditions - exacerbated by the worst drought to hit the nation in decades - made it difficult to gain ground on the infernos.

In California alone, about 8,000 firefighters were struggling to contain 13 fires. The US military was called in to help, with marines using helicopters to dump flame-retardant chemicals on a blaze near San Diego.

In the southern part of the state of Oregon, 201 structures were threatened by a wildfire that has burned 11,651 hectares (28,791 acres) of forest and is roughly 25 percent contained, officials said.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), according to fire management team spokesperson Renee Snyder. The Barry Point fire, as it is called, was sparked last week by lightning and has not destroyed any structures so far.

"Mother Nature is not lending us a hand on this one yet," said Snyder.

Entire towns threatened

In Idaho, one of the nation's largest fires encroached upon the towns of Pine and Featherville, located about 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of the state capital of Boise. The area has 450 homes, with about half inhabited year-round and the others serving as vacation retreats.

Nine major fires were burning in Idaho as of Thursday, where over the weekend the US fire season officially became deadly when 20-year-old firefighter Anne Veseth of Moscow, Idaho was killed by a falling tree. According to Forest Service spokesperson Elizabeth Slown, Veseth was the first Forest Service employee to die fighting a wildfire since 2009.

Nearly 43,000 wildfires had been reported in the US this season, burning a total of 2.6 million hectares. Earlier in the year, a single fire burned more than 242,000 hectares in southeastern Oregon, the largest fire in state history.

bm/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)