One Killed as Wildfires Rage in Western States

By Joe Kafka
Associated Press
Monday, July 9, 2007

HOT SPRINGS, S.D., July 8 -- One of dozens of fires across the West killed one person and destroyed 27 homes after racing out of a canyon in South Dakota's Black Hills on Sunday, authorities said.

Residents of about 50 homes fled the wildfire near Hot Springs, which also injured two firefighters and closed a section of a state highway, state and federal officials said. An area of roughly nine square miles has burned since the fire was sparked Saturday by lightning.

One person, whose identity was withheld until relatives could be notified, was killed trying to retrieve possessions from a home.

"This thing blew up because of extreme hot temperatures and the winds," said Joe Lowe, state wildland fire coordinator. "It came out of the canyon with a vengeance."

More than two dozen homes had no damage because firefighters protected them with a high-tech gel made of water-filled bubbles.

High wind near Wenatchee, Wash., overnight spread a brush fire that threatened homes. By Sunday morning, 250 to 270 homes had been evacuated, and at least three outbuildings were destroyed.

In fire-swept Nevada, about 1,500 residents of Winnemucca were allowed to return home hours after a wildfire destroyed an electrical substation and several outbuildings, shut down Interstate 80, delayed trains and killed livestock. No injuries to people were reported.

In Utah, the largest wildfire in state history grew to 283,000 acres Sunday. The blaze has swept through about 442 square miles.

The fire forced the closure Sunday 60 miles of Interstate 15, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steve Winward said.

Other fires blackened the landscape in California, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

Quick-moving flames burned more than 34,000 acres in California's Inyo National Forest, skirting the popular John Muir Wilderness north of Mount Whitney.

A wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California injured 11 firefighters, including one who suffered a broken leg.

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