Firefighters Set Backfire to Contain California Forest Blaze Caused by Lightning

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A wildfire sparked by lightning burned about a mile from homes Friday but posed no immediate danger, officials said.

The blaze, which charred just over a third of a square mile, was 70 percent contained and seemed to be burning back on itself, said Joe Zarki, a Joshua Tree National Park spokesman.

The fire was among a half-dozen started by lightning Thursday in wilderness areas of inland Southern California, where naturally occurring wildfires have scorched vast areas this month. The other new fires went out but crews were concerned as more thunderstorms rolled through the Mojave Desert.

About 200 firefighters were on the lines. Early Friday, they set a backfire to burn out brush along one flank to prevent flames from jumping out of the park and heading toward homes, Zarki said.

Full containment was expected Saturday unless new thunderstorms caused more problems, he said.

Elsewhere, a fire that burned 24,695 acres, or about 38 square miles, southwest of communities in the San Bernardino Mountains, was 62 percent contained.

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An adjoining fire remained contained at 61,700 acres, or 96 square miles. It destroyed 58 houses and mobile homes, caused 17 injuries and killed a Pioneertown man when it swept through the Mojave Desert after being ignited by lightning July 9.

In the Idaho Rockies, crews battled steep terrain as flames raced through tinder-dry timber stands and blackened 1,000 acres, or one and a half square miles. Firefighters worked to keep it away from a homes near the village of North Fork.

"It's not threatening structures at this time, but we are keeping a close eye on that subdivision about four miles away," said Kent Fuellenbach of the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Salmon.

In Utah, strong winds stretched a wildfire to more than 1,000 acres along the central Utah-Colorado border, the latest blaze amid hot, dry conditions across the state.

"It was like putting a blow dryer to a fire," said Heather O'Hanlon of the Bureau of Land Management in Moab. However, she said fire crews expect to contain the fire by Saturday night.