Hot Temperatures Taunt Firefighters As Wildfires Burn In Dry California

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 7:10 am

By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Dry thunderstorms forecast for most of central California on Tuesday could hamper firefighters' efforts to contain massive wildfires burning by the coast and in the Sierra foothills, officials said.

Hot temperatures also were expected to bedevil firefighters in other Western states coping with fast-moving fires.

Cooler temperatures and lighter winds allowed crews to make significant progress on taming a 35,000-acre fire in California's Inyo National Forest on Monday. The state's largest blaze, sparked by lightning on Friday, was 71 percent contained by evening, after destroying six homes and closing down trails into a popular wilderness area north of Mount Whitney.

On Sunday, the fire temporarily forced 200 residents of Independence to leave their homes and closed down a long stretch of Highway 395. A total of 11 firefighters had suffered minor injuries, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Pam Bierce said.

Along the coast, firefighters lost some ground in the Los Padres National Forest as flames there chewed through brittle brush and trees unburned in four decades.

The 9,500-acre fire, which was 30 percent contained, threatened more than 20 unoccupied cabins in Zaca Lake Retreat and the historic Manzana Schoolhouse. Officials did not order evacuations, but flames that came as close to a quarter-mile to a mineral spring lake forced the resort to cancel camping reservations at the height of the tourist season.

In Nevada, firefighters battled another day of triple digit temperatures, choking smoke and difficult terrain Monday as they challenged lightning-sparked wildland fires that blackened more than 245 square miles across northern Nevada but spared dozens of homes.

The 20,500-acre Thomas fire burned into the back yards of a residential area of Winnemucca, about 170 miles east of Reno, but was stopped short of the houses. An electrical substation and a handful of outbuildings were destroyed.

Wildfires kept Kitt Peak National Observatory in southern Arizona closed Monday and three small communities in the northern part of the state remained under evacuation orders as gusty winds and hot weather hampered firefighters' efforts. At least nine fires larger than 100 acres were burning across the state, although most were in remote areas and not affecting people.

In central Utah, meanwhile, firefighters were able to contain 10 percent of a 468-square- miles blaze thanks to low winds and increased resources. So far the fire, burning about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, has raced through 300,000 acres of extremely dry sagebrush, cheat grass and pinion juniper.

A southwestern Colorado wildfire believed to have been caused by lightning destroyed a house and blackened 1,526 acres in southwest Colorado, but no injuries were reported, firefighters said Monday.

The fire, about 11 miles south of Mancos and 240 miles southwest of Denver, was about 50 percent contained Monday, firefighters said. Flames reached 100 feet high, said Eric La Price, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.

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