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Fires across West keep crews busy

Dozens of people were ordered to evacuate two small central Idaho towns on Tuesday as an 88-square-mile group of fires moved in their direction.
California Wildfires
A massive wildfire burns in Los Padres National Forest near New Cuyama, Calif., on Monday. Dan Steinberg / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dozens of people were ordered to evacuate two small central Idaho towns on Tuesday as an 88-square-mile group of fires moved in their direction.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter ordered the evacuations of Yellow Pine and Johnson Creek at the request of Valley County Sheriff Patti Bolen.

Across Idaho, hundreds of homes are threatened by wildfires that have blackened more than 500,000 acres, or 781 square miles, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Although the National Weather Service said temperatures in the 70s and light wind were expected Tuesday, thunderstorms also were forecast in central Idaho, with only a 20 percent chance of rain.

A caravan was being organized to lead residents of Yellow Pine and Johnson Creek over a closed road to McCall, about 30 miles to the west, dispatcher Stacie Branum said. That road had been closed because of fire danger but was passable at times, said fire information officer Susan Marzec.

Hundreds forced to flee
Residents also had fled from around the central Idaho towns of Warm Lake in the Boise National Forest and Secesh, Warren and South Fork in the Payette National Forest, where more than 150 homes, five commercial properties and nearly 390 other structures were threatened by a 95-square-mile complex of fires, spokeswoman Kris Eriksen said.

Another group of fires southeast of McCall in the Boise National Forest had spread across more than 134 square miles, fire managers said. Officials were forced to shut off power lines between Scott Valley and Yellow Pine, leaving hundreds of people without power.

In north-central Idaho, the community of Comstock was threatened by a 94-square-mile fire in the Nez Perce National Forest, officials said.

Authorities in central Washington ordered about 180 people to evacuate two vacation communities along Lake Chelan on Tuesday out of concern that a wildfire could block their only road out. The blaze west of the lake had spread across 1,700 acres, or less than 3 square miles, the Chelan County sheriff’s office said.

Fires in Montana, Yellowstone
Montana still had nearly two dozen large wildfires Tuesday.

Residents of about 300 homes who were evacuated for a second time during the weekend remained out of their homes because of a blaze near the community of Seeley Lake, Mont., northeast of Missoula. That wildfire had charred more than 21,000 acres, or about 33 square miles, and was just 9 percent contained Tuesday, fire officials said.

Crews battling that fire were preparing for stormy weather expected later this week, said fire information officer Pete Buist.

A Wyoming wildfire that had closed the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park was less active Tuesday, allowing tourists to enter the park from that approach for the first time in two days. While that gate was closed, tourists driving from Cody, Wyo., had to detour 29 miles to the park’s northeast entrance on the Montana line. More than 208,000 visitors passed through the east gate this year through July.

The blaze, just a few miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance, had blackened some 12,000 acres, or more than 15 square miles, and firefighters said they had yet to begin carving a fire break around the fire.

In Hawaii, meanwhile, while the Big Island of Hawaii waited to see if Hurricane Flossie would strike, firefighters on the island of Oahu faced a wildfire that had covered more than 3 square miles on the North Shore, damaging farm equipment and power lines. Several homes were evacuated for a time on Monday.