RENO, Nev. – High wind hampered fire crews again Sunday as they fought a wildfire that had dashed across nearly 300 square miles of remote rangeland in northern Nevada.
The brush fire 50 miles northeast of Winnemucca had exploded from less than 30 square miles to 292 square miles since Thursday, making it one of the nation's biggest wildfires of the season, fire information officer Susan Marzec said.
No buildings had been damaged but the blaze posed a potential risk to the tiny towns of Midas and Tuscarora as well as scattered ranches. Flames were within 3 miles of Midas and 11 miles of Tuscarora.
"The fire is continuing to make its move because of gusty winds and dryness," Marzec said. "Every time we make headway we're back where we started."
The fire was just 5 percent contained and no estimate was available on when it would be fully contained.
Cooler temperatures and lighter winds in Oregon aided crews fighting the 9,000-acre Black Crater fire west of Sisters on Sunday, and residents in three evacuated subdivisions might soon be able to return home, officials said.
The fire, which started from a lightning strike on July 23 and has yet to burn any houses, was 20 percent contained late Sunday, said Paul Norman, a spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.
Tom Berglund, a fire information officer said he did not know when the 1,500 people under orders to evacuate would be allowed to return home. But he said there is talk among some officials that it could be within days.
"It's been a remarkable turnaround," he said.
Wildfires continued to rage Sunday in the Nebraska Panhandle, where three homes were destroyed Saturday, several others were damaged and the campus of Chadron State College was seriously threatened before firefighters managed to turn the flames back.
Officials planned to evacuate the town of Harrison, population 280, after forecasters predicted winds would shift and push the flames toward it.
Officials warned that the focus on Harrison did not mean the Chadron fires were contained.
"That's going to be very spooky out there tonight if this thing comes through like it's planned," Chadron Fire Chief Pat Gould said late Sunday. "We're not out (of) the woods by any means."
Officials planned to order evacuations of 50 to 80 residents near Chadron as a precaution, a day after 200 to 350 were told to leave three subdivisions.
Elsewhere, a wildfire feeding on trees, juniper brush and sage had spread across nearly 20 square miles in southeastern Wyoming, near Hartville, Deputy State Forester Dan Perko said Sunday.
No homes have been lost in the fire, but a 35-mile section of state highway was closed and Perko said one or two ranches could be threatened.
In Montana, a wildfire in the eastern part of Glacier National Park came within a mile of structures as strong winds hastened the fire's growth Sunday. The fire was 34 square miles, said fire information officer Shannon Downey.
People were asked to evacuate one campground, and authorities closed another, along with trails in the area, park officials said.
Near Chelan, Wash., crews used explosives to create a barrier protecting the resort town of Stehekin from a 7-square-mile wildfire. Residents and visitors were warned to be ready to evacuate if necessary.