Nightly News   |  August 18, 2013

Idaho wildfire threatens thousands of homes

The fast moving blaze is endangering 1,600 homes. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> good evening. there are few more dangerous places in america right now than on the fire lines out west, both for those fighting fires and those trying to flee them. there are dozens of wild fires on the move tonight but the most dangerous is in idaho , so the called beaver creek fire, where thousands more have been ordered to grab what they can and get out. crews from around the country have been brought in to battle it, attacking from the air and from the ground. but conditions couldn't be worse as mountaintops virtually explode with fire before their eyes. nbc's miguel almaguer is covering the story for us. he is in haley, idaho , tonight. migle?

>> >> reporter: lester, good evening. that plume of smoke behind me about a mile away is the heart of the fire. just in front of me is a sprawling community. what worries firefighters so much tonight is what is in between these two, acres and acres of dry fuel. explosive, out of control and now closing in on 2300 homes. the beaver creek fire is a monster, moving in multiple directions.

>> this is an extremely fast and dangerous fire.

>> reporter: feeding on forest land, dry trees are blow torches, shooting flames and hot embers 100 feet into the air.

>> right now, it's, you know, looks like a bomb went off over there. trees are down and gone.

>> reporter: thick, choking smoke is smothering three resort communities, house to sands warned fire could be here next.

>> this is craziness. i mean, our life is in our vehicles right now.

>> reporter: a region that depends on tourism is tonight a ghost town . greg loomis is a fly;?f fishing guide.

>> my business has fallen off by about 90%. it's just basically fallen off a cliff.

>> reporter: with 150 square miles burned so far, the beaver creek fire is bigger than the city of philadelphia , detroit or denver. more than 1,000 firefighters are attacking the blaze, but for now, losing the battle. conditions are grueling, teams are fatigued. days are long. this hotshot crew from salt lake city has been on the front lines for 16 hours. their work here is backbreaking. their packs are full of gear, weighing over 40 pounds. the beaver creek fire may be the most dangerous blaze in the country, but it's not the only inferno threatening homes. from california to colorado, 34 major wildfires are scorching the west, the region a tinderbox, a perfect recipe for fire.

>> three things affect how a wildfire burns, weather, the topography and the fuels. so, in this case, all the factors are against us.

>> reporter: tonight in idaho , against the odds, firefighters battle an unrelenting blaze, one that shows little sign of slowing down. as this fire churns through forest land, crews are making progress the blaze is 9% contained and despite the massive size of this fire, lester, only one home has been destroyed.