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Wildfire destroys about 70 homes in rural Washington

Wildfires rage as dry conditions continue in the west. Authorities are scrambling to put out the blazes. 

By Shannon DininnyAssociated Press / August 15, 2012

Flames surround a house Tuesday on a hillside above Bettas Road near Cle Elum, Wash. Wildland firefighters on-site advised that the house survived the fire. The fast-moving wildfire has burned 70 homes across nearly 40 square miles of central Washington grassland, timber and sagebrush.

Elaine Thompson/AP

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Cle Elum, Wash.

The extreme fire conditions across the US West have exploded, with several burning across the region Wednesday.

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In recent days, one firefighter died in Idaho after being struck by a falling tree. Another suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation after a blaze along the Nevada-Oregon border forced her to crawl into an emergency fire shelter.

In a rural part of Washington state, three separate fires were sparked in just 90 minutes. Firefighters put out two quickly, but the third left authorities scrambling to evacuate hundreds of residents.

IN PICTURES: New Mexico wildfires

"Chaotic," Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers said. "It was one of those things you never felt like you were in control, because things kept changing with the wind."

About 70 homes and hundreds of outbuildings had burned, officials said.

No injuries have been reported, but fire danger is extreme due to wind, heat and dry conditions, incident commander Rex Reed said.

"We've had a long prolonged dry period — three weeks with no precipitation at all," he said.

Across California, thousands of firefighters were contending with dry conditions and strong winds. In the southern part of the state, residents of dozens of homes in sparsely populated inland areas evacuated as wildfires thrived in the desert heat.

One person in Riverside County was airlifted to a hospital for treatment of serious burns, state fire officials said. No details on the person's identity or injuries were released.

At least one house was destroyed. Animal control officials were helping homeowners remove livestock from the area.

IN PICTURES: New Mexico wildfires

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