updated 8/6/2007 10:11:08 AM ET 2007-08-06T14:11:08

Residents evacuated from the vicinity of a large southwestern Montana wildfire were briefly allowed to return Monday to check on their homes and gather belongings, as firefighters braced for worsening weather.

The blaze near Seeley Lake, northeast of Missoula, had destroyed one house, and damaged another house, a commercial building and seven outbuildings. It had blackened more than 18,000 acres by Monday, or 28 square miles.

About 200 homes were under an evacuation order. Residents allowed to make brief return trips Monday morning were required to be out again by midday, when fire activity typically heightens.

Neither Cross nor Missoula County Undersheriff Mike Dominick knew exactly how many homes were evacuated.

Dominick said a few people chose to remain despite the order. Montanans tend to think of themselves as self-sufficient and some “believe that their residence won’t be affected or that they can fight the fire,” he said.

State of emergency declared
Humidity was expected to drop Tuesday, creating hot and dry conditions after a period of damp, cloudy weather during the weekend.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer declared a state of emergency Sunday. More than a dozen large wildfires were active in the state.

A wildfire north of Thompson Falls in northwest Montana had charred an estimated 40,000 acres, or 62.5 square miles, by Monday morning.

Improved weather had slowed the growth of the fire, which was threatening an estimated 350 buildings, most of them homes, said Dyan Bone, a fire information officer. No evacuations were ordered, but Bone said that could change.

California blaze
Cool temperatures and favorable wind in California helped crews battling a huge wildfire in Santa Barbara County that was more than a month old and had flared during the weekend. Evacuation orders remained in effect for a handful of areas.

Southwesterly wind was moving the fire into wilderness and away from homes and buildings, fire spokesman Jim Lopez said.

That wildfire, in mountainous Los Padres National Forest about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, had covered about 67,000 acres, roughly 105 square miles. It was 68 percent contained Monday morning, with full containment expected Sept. 7, Lopez said.

A fire in a remote area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula pushed past fire lines and grew to about 14,000 acres or 22 square miles amid windy, dry weather with temperatures in the 80s, the state said Monday.

No injuries had been reported, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Several structures in the area were threatened and precautionary evacuations were order for an area near Pine Stump Junction, but it was not immediately clear how many people were affected.

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