Unruly wildfires threaten hundreds of homes across West

Wildfires continue to burn hundreds of square miles across several states, destroying homes and killing three. Despite hundreds of firefighters' attempts to battle the flames, most of the fires remain less than 50 percent contained. 

Genna Martin/The Herald/AP
Lt. Scott Coulson investigates brush fires in the hills outside of Omak, Wash. last Friday, as wildfires continue to burn throughout north-central Washington.

The latest on wildfires in the West (all times local):

10:55 a.m.

A sheriff's department in eastern Oregon has ordered more evacuations for an area near John Day because of a wildfire that has already destroyed dozens of homes.

The Grant County Sheriff's Department issued the order Sunday night. Authorities have yet to say how many homes are affected.

The agency said the evacuation level was increased because southwest winds were pushing the flames into the Norton Fork of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness, about 280 miles east of Portland.

The wildfire started by lightning Aug. 12 has burned more than 100 square miles, much of it in the Malheur National Forest. Firefighters have contained about 25 percent of it.

The blaze has wrecked about 40 homes and another 50 other buildings, such as barns.

—Steven Dubois, Portland, Oregon.


10:20 a.m.

About 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand have arrived in Boise, Idaho, and are scheduled to receive protective gear Monday before heading out to fight fires burning in the West.

The international firefighters are joining efforts in the U.S. because resources are stretched thin due to the number and severity of fires burning across several states.

Separately in Idaho, firefighters planned to hold and secure fire lines against a group of fires burning in timber a couple miles from the northern Idaho town of Kamiah.

The blazes have destroyed 42 homes and scorched about 72 square miles but nearly 800 firefighters have them 45 percent contained.

Idaho had 16 large fires Monday, the most in the nation.

— Keith Ridler, Boise, Idaho.


9 a.m.

The massive fire burning in north-central Washington is now the largest in state history.

The Okanogan (oh-kah-NAH'-guhn) Complex of wildfires has surpassed last year's Carlton Complex blazes.

Fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said Monday the Okanogan Complex was measured overnight at just over 400 square miles, slightly more than the Carlton fires, which also burned in Okanogan County.

The latest group of fires grew by more than 26 square miles Sunday and is expected to spread even more in coming days.

Isaacson called the record unfortunate and notes it's only Aug. 24, meaning the fire could burn for several more months. Officials are still trying to determine how many homes and other structures have been burned.

About 1,250 people are battling the fires. Last week, three firefighters were killed and four injured near Twisp, Washington.

— Nicholas K. Geranios, Spokane.


6:15 a.m.

At least 400 homes remain threatened as crews increase containment of a wildfire burning through timber near a popular ski resort in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains.

Water cannons usually used for making snow were pointed at the fire burning near Snow Summit resort in Big Bear Lake, about 100 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Firefighters working through the night held the blaze to about 100 acres. It is 30 percent contained early Monday.

The resort was open for mountain biking and scenic ski-lift rides before closing for the fire that broke out Sunday afternoon.

Evacuation orders are in place for up to 500 homes, many of them cabins and vacation houses.

All schools within the Bear Valley Unified School District are closed Monday. Several mountain roads are off-limits.

— Christopher Weber, Los Angeles.


8:05 a.m.

A wildfire smoke health advisory has been issued through 9 a.m. for northeastern Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued the warning for east of the Continental Divide and north of Interstate 70.

Officials cite haze and smoke from Pacific Northwest, where more than a dozen large wildfires are burning across central and eastern Washington state.

The department recommends limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present, especially for vulnerable groups.

Cities affected by the advisory include Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Golden, Littleton, Brighton, Limon, Burlington, Fort Morgan, Sterling and Julesburg.

— Kristen Wyatt, Denver.

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