DISASTERS

Fires threatening communities around West

  • In this Wednesday evening, June 15, 2016 photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a helicopter makes a water drop on flames from the Shirpa Fire in Santa Barbara County west of Goleta, Calif. The wildfire burning in rugged coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara is growing as it feeds on vegetation that hasn't burned in 70 years. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

    In this Wednesday evening, June 15, 2016 photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a helicopter makes a water drop on flames from the Shirpa Fire in Santa Barbara County west of Goleta, Calif. The wildfire burning in rugged coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara is growing as it feeds on vegetation that hasn't burned in 70 years. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Heavy smoke rises over a hill as a wildfire burns west of Goleta, Calif., Friday, June 17, 2016. The latest size estimate Friday morning is nearly three times the previous acreage, with just 5 percent containment. The fire has been stoked by the region's afternoon and evening "Sundowner" winds, which blast down the face of the Santa Ynez Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    Heavy smoke rises over a hill as a wildfire burns west of Goleta, Calif., Friday, June 17, 2016. The latest size estimate Friday morning is nearly three times the previous acreage, with just 5 percent containment. The fire has been stoked by the region's afternoon and evening "Sundowner" winds, which blast down the face of the Santa Ynez Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)  (The Associated Press)

  • A skycrane helicopter makes an emergency water drop onto the US Highway 101 center divider near the El Capitan State Park Thursday, June 16, 2016.  Wind driven flames from the Sherpa Fire pushed down canyon and near the freeway. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)

    A skycrane helicopter makes an emergency water drop onto the US Highway 101 center divider near the El Capitan State Park Thursday, June 16, 2016. Wind driven flames from the Sherpa Fire pushed down canyon and near the freeway. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Fueled by hot and dry weather, wildfires threatened homes in California and other Western states as crews struggled to corral flames that have scorched miles of brush and timber.

About 140 homes and ranches were considered at risk in California, where a 1,400-acre fire was tearing through coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara, scorching an area that hadn't burned in 60 years.

The chaparral was "very dry, very dead-on-the-ground fuel for the fire," said Gina DePinto, communications manager for Santa Barbara County.

About 800 firefighters struggled to reach the narrow, brush-choked coastal canyons to attack the flames. A fleet of aircraft had better luck Thursday but nightfall brought a rise in gusty, erratic "sundowner" winds that had pushed the blaze Wednesday night.

For a second night, a freeway, U.S. 101, was closed in the area.

Hundreds of people were forced from campgrounds after the fire erupted Wednesday.

Charlie and Elizabeth Hatten spent the night at a shelter after a park ranger woke them as they camped at El Capitan State Beach.

"The flames looked so close. You couldn't see the moon anymore," Charlie Hatten told the Los Angeles Times.

The campgrounds remained closed but fire officials said nobody remained at the shelters Thursday.

In central New Mexico, a blaze that forced evacuations and burned several buildings had blackened 25 square miles by Thursday night and blanketed the state's largest city in a thick haze.

The fire was expected to continue moving east and northeast and posed an imminent threat to the small community of Chilili, the Tajique area, and the Ponderosa Pine residential area, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

Extremely hot and dry weather was forecast to continue into the weekend, although gusty winds should ease, fire officials said.

In east-central Arizona, progress was made against a 12-square-mile blaze that broke out Wednesday south of Show Low.

"The winds weren't as bad, and the back-burns did exactly what we wanted them to do," Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

However, a small community in Navajo County remained evacuated and thousands of other residents were told to be prepared in case they had to leave.

In Nevada, a 300-acre Reno brush fire that threatened dozens of homes was 75 percent contained and crews were mostly in mop-up mode Thursday evening.

Blazes also threatened homes in Utah, where a firefighter hurt his head in a fall.

___

Weber and Associated Press writer John Antczak reported from Los Angeles.