Nightly News   |  August 19, 2013

Idaho inferno erratic and aggressive

Just a mile from more than 5000 homes, the explosive fire is moving in multiple directions and has already swallowed 160 square miles. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports from Hailey, Idaho.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, i'm lester holt , sitting in for brian.

>>> reinforcements are on the way tonight for the army of firefighters trying to save thousands of homes from a massive inferno still burning in central idaho . it is the biggest and most dangerous of more than three dozen wildfires. late word, they are now burning in eight western states . for those on the fire lines, the conditions couldn't be worse and the stakes couldn't be much higher. that fire in idaho is tonight threatening at least three communities and thousands have had to leave their homes. nbc's miguel almaguer was with firefighters on the front lines for part of the day. he has pulled back now to safer grour ground in nearby haley, idaho to join us. miguel ?

>> reporter: lester, good evening. all the fires in the west are feeding on drought-like conditions and is the perfect fuel. fire loves the deep terrains, it explodes out of control when it hits a hill like this. so much of this hill was covered with waist-high debris and brush. when it hit this fire, it took off. tonight, idaho 's beer creek fire is the most dangerous, most explosive blaze in the nation, with no sign of slowing down. it's moving in multiple directions, 160 square miles swallowed by flames so far.

>> this fire has been very active and very aggressive. it's a perfect firestorm.

>> reporter: the inferno, just a mile away from 5,000 homes.

>> just an extended drought. it's been hot, it's been dry.

>> reporter: firefighters call this an erratic and aggressive blaze, whipped by 30-mile-an-hour winds. 1200 firefighters are on the ground. more resources on the way. crews on the front lines have had little sleep. this back-breaking work is going around the clock. across the west, 41 uncontained wildfires are raging, 32 of them sparked by lightning, like this one in central california , threatening 400 homes. in the last 24 hours , 600 lightning strikes in this region have crews on their heels.

>> the concerns are certainly just the erratic conditions out here and the erratic fire behavior.

>> reporter: with drought conditions burning fires hotter and faster than ever before, crews face new challenges, protecting homes encroaching on dense forest land.

>> a lot of narrow gulches in this area with homes built right to the middle of them, just incredible fire behavior with crews trying to protect the structures.

>> reporter: tonight in idaho and beyond, many fear this fire season is not only heating up but just beginning. firefighters are making progress. this blaze is nearly 10% contained. the bad news, the winds are picking up and so much of this mountainside has been scorched and those that haven't been is ripe to burn. lester?

>> miguel , thank you.