updated 8/30/2006 4:44:13 PM ET 2006-08-30T20:44:13

Firefighters used bulldozers Wednesday to try to stop a fast-moving wildfire that destroyed two houses and prompted evacuations along the southern edge of the San Bernardino National Forest.

The fire had covered an estimated 2,000 acres of brush, or just over 3 square miles, since starting Tuesday and was 10 percent contained, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, said Jeff Goldberg, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

Fire officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for Mountain Home Village, a community of about 60 homes, and a nearby Christian camp. They also closed down a section of highway that runs through the area to Big Bear Lake. By late Tuesday, the fire was about a mile from Mountain Home Village.

Among those packing up clothes and valuables to leave was Kevin Bondy. “I’m hoping we can return tomorrow, but you never know,” he said. “You want to be a little bit cautious.”

North of Mountain Home Village, Angelus Oaks was under a voluntary evacuation. A layer of ash had blanketed the community of 300 people, said resident Brett Berens.

Elsewhere, residents of about 65 homes in south-central Montana’s Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties were urged to evacuate because of a wildfire that had blackened 40,000 acres, or 62 square miles, officials said.

40,000-acre fire in Montana
In Montana, residents of about 65 homes in Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties were urged to evacuate because of a wildfire burning 15 miles to the south. Burning about 60 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, the fire grew to 40,000 acres, or 62 square miles by Wednesday morning, officials said.

“I’m not sure that everyone has cleared out yet, but almost everyone is at least getting ready to leave,” said Kerry O’Connell, the Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator.

Fire information officer Gwen Shaffer said dry, southwesterly wind could cause the fire, 15 miles south of Big Timber, to expand on Wednesday. “There’s nothing we can do about the winds,” she said. “Mother nature has her own plan.”

Warmer and drier air also aided in the spread of the fire, which was reported on Aug. 22 and is burning in both the Gallatin and Custer national forests.

"I'm not sure that everyone has cleared out yet, but almost everyone is at least getting ready to leave," said Kerry O'Connell, the Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator on Tuesday.

Washington state fire
The Tripod wildfire in north-central Washington also grew, but firefighters were aided by more favorable weather conditions. The lightning-caused fire was estimated at 147,095 acres, nearly 230 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

"Where weather is more in our favor — with higher humidity and lower temperatures and not as much wind — fire crews will make a direct attack on the fire," fire spokesman Bud Nelson said.

Higher humidity, decreased wind and temperatures that had fallen 10 to 15 degrees helped out the more than 1,500 people fighting the biggest fire in north-central Washington state.

By late Tuesday, the lightning-caused fire was estimated at 147,095 acres, or nearly 230 square miles, between Winthrop and Conconully in the Okanogan and Wenatchee national forests. It was about 48 percent contained, said spokesman Bud Nelson.

By Thursday high temperatures are expected to be in the 60s and 70s across Washington, well below normal for this time of year, forecasters said.

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