Lightning Sparks New Nevada Wildfires as Blazes Scorch the West

A lightning storm touched off at least nine fires in northeastern Nevada, forcing interstate closures and threatening a small ranching community, authorities said.

A wildfire about 20 miles west of Elko burned about 5,000 acres, while another blaze had scorched about 3,000 acres northeast of Elko and forced residents in nearby Elburz to evacuate. Two sections of Interstate 80 were closed Sunday night.

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"We've got a pair of big fires," said Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management in Elko, a city of about 16,000 residents. "It's bearing down on I-80 right now."

Firefighters also were battling blazes in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

In northern New Mexico, a 2,300-acre wildfire west of Gallina forced residents of three small communities nearby to flee their homes. On Sunday evening, evacuees accompanied by law enforcement escorts were allowed to return home briefly to check on or retrieve "the four Ps — pets, papers, pills, pictures," said Lawrence Lujan, a fire information officer.

Thunderstorms helped fire crews in southern New Mexico make progress on a nearly 51,000-acre fire burning in the Gila National Forest. Punky Moore, a fire information officer, said 870 people were battling that blaze.

Investigators have determined that a campfire ignited the fire, and forest officials are offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Arizona fire officials said crews made progress over the weekend trying to get a 4,200-acre wildfire under control just north of the scenic community of Sedona.

People living in about 75 homes and four resorts on the fire's northern flank were allowed to return home Saturday, but hundreds of homes remained evacuated.

"I certainly think that we might be seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel," said David Eaker, a spokesman for the team fighting the fire.

While crews expected to contain the fire by Wednesday evening, it wasn't known when the remaining evacuees will be allowed to return home.

The fire, the second to hit the Sedona area in the past month, began June 18 as a transient's campfire and spread to steep terrain above Oak Creek Canyon.

In southern Colorado, all evacuation orders were lifted Sunday for homes near a 13,780-acre wildfire as firefighters got help from cooler, more humid weather.

Residents of about 50 homes in the area were allowed back into the area in the afternoon. At one point, about 300 homes had been asked to evacuate after the fire started June 18. Fire officials warned that residents could be asked to evacuate again if the weather and fire activity shift.

A wildfire in southwestern Utah grew to 4,800 acres on Sunday and a finger of the blaze reached Utah 9, forcing closure of the highway between Virgin and Rockville.