Wildfires Scorch Western States

ByABC News
July 30, 2000, 4:33 PM

July 30 -- As wildfires continue to burn hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the western United States, fire officials today said this is the worst fire season in more than a decade, and that the outlook calls for it to get worse.

Its the worst fire in the history of Californias Sequoia National Forest, almost doubling in size in the last 24 hours.

The mammoth blaze in the rugged Sierra Nevadas grew to 60,000 acres, forcing residents in a rustic mountain village to pack up their livestock and leave under skies filled with smoke and flames.

The Sierra Nevada blaze was one of 50 fires burning about 500,000 acres across the nation, the National Fire Information Center said. In the west, wildfires continued to burn in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Michelle Barrett, a spokesperson with the Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Id., says weather in several states is providing the fuel to keep the wildfires going.

We have five new large fires throughout the west. The weather is continuing to be difficult for us, with very high temperatures and very low humidity. The result is were seeing very extreme fire behavior and fire dangers.

In addition, were expecting some lightning across Washington State and Oregon which will likely make our situation even worse.

About 1,350 people, nine helicopters, four air tankers, 13 bulldozers and 15 water tenders are fighting the blaze, which has cost $3.37 million so far, said Geri Adams, U.S. Forest Service fire information officer. Eight firefighters have been injured since the fire began July 22, including one who was treated for first- and second-degree burns to one arm.

We still have an outstanding order [for more people], but with all the other fires we have in the U.S., were still waiting, Adams said.

Forced to Flee

The main priority for firefighters is trying to save the small California community of Kennedy Meadows, where 43 full-time residents play host to scores of annual vacationers. An evacuation order was issued Thursday across the Kern Plateau, but some residents have opted to stay in the isolated area, where generators are the only source of power and telephone service was first installed less than a year ago.