Cooler Temps Helps Firefighters Battle California Wildfires, Blazes Burn in Other States

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Firefighters fresh from their victory over a 100-square-mile wildfire in Southern California were sent elsewhere to help corral smaller wildfires as cooler weather aided the battle against several blazes across the West.

Other fires burning in California included the 800-acre Heart fire in the San Bernardino National Forest, a 500-acre blaze southwest of Susanville, and a 550-acre fire south of Middletown.

With temperatures in southern California some 20 degrees cooler than the triple-digit highs of last week, firefighters fully contained the huge Sawtooth fire in the Mojave Desert on Tuesday night.

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The good news was tempered somewhat by forecasters who said looming thunderstorms could provide welcome rain but also pose potential threats — flooding, mudslides or new fires sparked by lightning.

Ignited by lightning July 9, the 96-square mile — 61,700-acre — Sawtooth blaze destroyed 58 houses and mobile homes, dozens of outbuildings and scores of vehicles. It was linked to 17 injuries and one death.

The Millard fire, about 24,210 acres or 38 square miles, connected with the Sawtooth fire last week. This second blaze was burning in low-elevation brush and on rocky ridges dotted with pines killed by drought and a bark beetle infestation. It was 57 percent contained Wednesday.

Elsewhere, rain helped slow a fire near Wellington, Nev., close to the California line. The fire had covered nearly 10 square miles — 6,400 acres — and crews hoped to have it fully surrounded Friday, officials said.

Strong wind in central Montana pushed fires past containment lines. Several fires north of Jordan had blackened about 150 square miles, or about 98,000 acres, said Sharon Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the fire team. About 60 buildings, including 20 homes, were listed as threatened by the fires, which earlier destroyed an outbuilding.

A wildfire on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation south of Bismarck, N.D., came within about 2,000 feet of a rancher's home, but firefighters saved the home and got the blaze "pretty well contained," Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said Wednesday. The blaze had blackened about 15 square miles, or 9,600 acres, he said.

In northern Minnesota, a fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area had spread across about 34 square miles, or 21,760 acres. Much of the land was covered by dead trees blown down by a storm in 1999.

The fire was at least a couple of miles away from people and property, officials said. Crews worked to keep the blaze away from the Gunflint Trail, a main entry point to the popular canoeing and camping region.

In the windy West, another fire exploded to 5,000 acres, nearly 8 square miles, in the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona and California sides of the Colorado River, officials said Wednesday. The fire threatened a few homes in California and briefly cut power to an estimated 500 to 600 residents in Cibola, Ariz., said Robin Hansen of the Arizona State Land Department.

Four air tankers and two helicopters helped fight a fast-growing wildfire that had charred just over a square mile in southwestern Colorado's Ute Mountain Tribal Park, site of ancient rock art and cliff dwellings. There were no immediate threats to archaeological sites or buildings at the park.

Lightning sparked 14 new fires where Utah, Arizona and Nevada meet, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The largest, a blaze that was 4 square miles — or 2,560 acres — was burning along the Arizona-Nevada border and was 20 percent contained, BLM fire spokeswoman LaCee Bartholomew said Wednesday night.