WASHINGTON — About 1,200 United States soldiers have been called to join thousands of firefighters battling wildfires in the drought-parched West. Officials said when residents of Fort Carson, Colo., saw the the Fourth Infantry Division troops moving out, they feared the soldiers were heading for the Middle East.
By Sunday night, as the Army was en route, an estimated 20,000 firefighters had gained ground on the fires that have blackened more than 400,000 acres - about 625 square miles - in seven Western states.
In California alone, some 12,000 firefighters were working about 1,300 fires totaling more than 200,000 acres, the worst outbreak since 750,000 acres burned in 1987, when 11 people were killed. No deaths or major injuries have been reported in the current fires.
Fires, most started by dry lightning, were also burning elsewhere in the West.
In Oregon, lines around about 119,000 acres of wildfires remained fairly steady, bolstered by moisture-laden thunderstorms. Though lightning strikes were seen, none appeared to spark any new blazes. About 1,000 soldiers were preparing to join the fire lines Monday. The largest fire had burned about 75,000 acres in the Ochoco National Forest but was 75 percent contained Sunday.
In Washington, firefighters laboring in sweltering heat managed to stem dozens of wildfires burning in the eastern part of the state, despite temperatures that soared to near 100 degrees during the weekend.
In Idaho, six fires burned at least 71,000 acres. In the southern part of the state, crews hoped to contain a 65,000-acre blaze north of Gooding by late Sunday.
In Utah, firefighters contained the state's four largest wildfires over the weekend when lower temperatures and higher humidity allowed crews to gain the upper hand. Nearly 14,000 acres have been burned by six lightning-sparked wildfires across the state.
In Nevada, seven blazes consumed more than 11,225 acres.
In Montana, two fires scorched 870 acres.