Parched Western states battle threatening wildfires

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Dry Western states continue to be plagued by raging wildfires, including one that shut down part of a major interstate between Southern and Northern California Wednesday.

About 1,000 residents were evacuated from homes as the fire burned through brushy canyonlands north of Los Angeles. Houses and a mobile park in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita have been emptied.

The fire started around 1 p.m. on the shoulder of Interstate 5, briefly closing freeway lanes. Firefighters began surrounding it several hours later. More than 400 firefighters from agencies around the region are helping to contain the blaze.

Wind-driven flames were nearing homes, including Dale Lookholder's. He had collected a bag of prescription medications in preparation for evacuating.

"Just my drugs, that's all I care about," Lookholder told KABC-TV. "In the 23 years that we've been here, this is as close as it's gotten. I hope they get a handle on this thing. I just planted flowers."

Meanwhile, crews relied on retardant-dropping aircraft to battle the huge forest fire that has been burning for the past week in an area in the San Bernadino Mountains.

The blaze was partially contained after burning nearly 30 square miles of old-growth timber. Several hundred people were forced to leave camps and vacation homes.

In Northern California, a wildfire has grown to 26 square miles in hazardous and inaccessible terrain south of Lake Tahoe and is moving closer to structures, officials said.

Currently, no buildings have been damaged, but the mountain town of Markleeville remained on standby Wednesday for possible evacuations, according to the Bureau of Land Management. Several campgrounds have been evacuated and two highways have been shut down.

Air tankers and helicopters helped 900 firefighters battle the blaze about 20 miles west of the Nevada border. One firefighter received a heat-related injury Tuesday.

Strong, erratic winds and severe drought conditions have stoked the fire, and smoke can be seen as far away as Carson City, Nevada.

Up in Alaska, wildfires have forced widespread evacuations to the state’s parched interior. More than 270 fires are burning in Alaska, including one near Eureka that led Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Champion to evacuate his dogs to Fairbanks, KTUU reports.

In Tanana, a tribal nonprofit flew 62 people 130 miles to Fairbanks, focusing on elders, children and people with health conditions. The Tanana Chiefs Conference also flew six people from the village of Hughes Tuesday as a precaution in case things spiral out of control.

An area just north of Fairbanks also faced an evacuation advisory. Fairbanks, the interior's largest city, also has been smoky because of fires in the region even though it hasn't been directly touched by flames.

There were 40 new fires reported Tuesday, bringing the total of active fires to 278. Altogether, the fires have burned nearly 636 square miles.

A blaze engulfing a remote part of southwestern Oregon has grown to nearly eight square miles, but firefighters have managed to get it nearly half contained.

Incident commander Doug Johnson said fire lines will be tested in the coming days by a heat wave expected to bring triple-digit temperatures to the region.

The lightning-sparked blaze started June 11 and is burning in the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest.

Cooler weather has spurned the growth of a wildfire burning in Olympic National Park in Washington state. The fire was estimated to be about 1 ½ square miles Wednesday. The 950-acre blaze is burning high in the tree tops in a wilderness area about 13 miles north of Quinault.

Fire managers say they're monitoring the blaze and fighting it when it's safe.

Park official Todd Rankin says the fire is very unusual for this time of year. It was caused by a lightning strike in late May.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.