Video: Wildfires char western states

updated 9/9/2006 10:49:57 PM ET 2006-09-10T02:49:57

Improved weather and more manpower helped fire crews hold the line against two fires burning more than 407 square miles in northeastern Nevada on Saturday.

After highs in the 80s during the past several days, temperatures dipped Saturday into the 70s and humidity was low.

“The cooler temperatures and moisture are contributing to the success of our suppression efforts,” said Joe Freeland, fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management said in Elko.

The two fires had burned more than 261,000 acres, or 407 square miles, in Lander and Elko counties. A 151,874-acre blaze was 80 percent contained on Saturday, and a 109,893-acre fire was 60 percent contained. Officials expected full containment of both fires on Monday.

So far this year, the state has lost 1.47 million acres to fire — more than 2,290 square miles, or a land area just shy of the size of Delaware. Most of it has devastated the wildlife-rich northeastern part of Nevada.

In Idaho, fires had burned more than 234,000 acres, or 365 square miles, according to the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center, composed of various federal agencies that coordinate to battle wildfires.

On Saturday, lower temperatures, higher humidity and even some light rain showers in the Idaho Rockies gave crews a chance to gain ground on several fires and keep new lightning-sparked starts from growing.

The weather system helped clear smoke-filled skies in the Boise metropolitan area, where state environmental officials Saturday lifted an air quality alert for unhealthy pollution levels that had prevented area schools from allowing outdoor recess Friday.

In Washington, firefighters battled two of the state’s largest wildfires. A fire in southeastern Washington that burned more than 101,000 acres, or 157 square miles, was 55 percent contained, while another in northcentral Washington that torched over 170,000 acres, or 265 square miles, was 60 percent contained.

Crews in southern Montana continued to fight a 205,000-acre fire — about 320 square miles. It was 55 percent contained. The fire, which started Aug. 22 from lightning, earlier burned 26 homes.

A fire in the Sierra foothills in California was threatening between 100 and 200 homes. None of the blaze had been contained Saturday, despite cooler temperatures, said Mary Furney, a spokeswoman for the Tahoe National Forest. The 5-square-mile fire prompted a call for voluntary evacuations for residents in Michigan Bluff and Baker Ranch Friday.

Crews were also fighting a smaller fire in the Lost Padres National Forest that has been burning since Labor Day.

Nationally, the center reported, 8.65 million acres have burned so far this year. The blackened 13,516 square miles represents an area bigger than Maryland.

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