70 homes destroyed in US wildfires

2012-08-15 20:12
Flames surround a house on a hillside near Cle Elum, Washington. (AP)

Flames surround a house on a hillside near Cle Elum, Washington. (AP)

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Cle Elum - The extreme fire conditions across the US West have exploded, with several burning across the region on Wednesday and about 70 homes destroyed in Washington state.

In recent days, one firefighter died in Idaho after being struck by a falling tree. Another suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation after a blaze along the Nevada-Oregon border forced her to crawl into an emergency fire shelter.

In a rural part of Washington state, Wednesday's calmer winds gave firefighters hope of containing a blaze that has forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

"Chaotic," Kittitas County undersheriff Clayton Myers said. "It was one of those things you never felt like you were in control, because things kept changing with the wind."

About 70 homes and hundreds of outbuildings had burned, officials said.

"I'm watching my house burn down right now," a tearful Haley Lindelof, 16, told The Seattle Times newspaper.

Extreme danger

No injuries have been reported, but fire danger is extreme due to wind, heat and dry conditions, incident commander Rex Reed said.

The situation looked better on Wednesday morning. "We should have a good day," Reed said.

Across California, thousands of firefighters were contending with dry conditions and strong winds. In the southern part of the state, residents of dozens of homes in sparsely populated inland areas evacuated as wildfires thrived in the desert heat.

One person in Riverside County was airlifted to a hospital for treatment of serious burns, state fire officials said. No details on the person's identity or injuries were released.

At least one house was destroyed. Animal control officials were helping homeowners remove livestock from the area.

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