Scores of wildfires burn across western US

Rex Reed, Fire Commander: ''I've been in this business for 35 years and this is certainly one of the significant events of my career''

Wildfires raging across the western states of the US have destroyed dozens of homes and scorched thousands of acres of land, officials say.

The US Forest Service reported 62 large uncontained fires, mostly in the states of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and California.

A fire in the north-western US state of Washington has burned at least 60 houses and 24,000 acres (9,712 ha) since it started on Monday.

On Sunday, a 20-year-old firefighter was killed by a falling tree in Idaho.

Anne Veseth died near Orofino while combating a blaze. It was her second season as a firefighter.

A federal investigation was launched on Tuesday to establish what happened.

Plea to Mother Nature

The fire near the town of Cle Elum, in central Washington state, has prompted the evacuation of more than 400 people, although no injuries have been reported.

It came within six miles of the town of Ellensburg, said fire officials.

Crews barely managed to outrun the fast-moving fire, which began at a bridge construction site and has not been contained.

Officials say the current wind and heat are making it harder for firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

"Unless Mother Nature helps us out here, we're going to be fighting this a while," Kittitas County Fire and Rescue Captain Joe Seemiller said.

Some land at a nearby chimpanzee sanctuary has been damaged in the fire, and a spokeswoman said the chimps seemed disoriented by the smoke.

In Utah, a fire sparked by lightning covered 21,800 acres, threatened a herd of wild horses and forced the closure of the historic Pony Express Road that runs through the state's western desert.

Fires are also burning across the state of California:

  • A blaze in Lake County has spread over 5,800 acres and burned three buildings
  • About 600 homes were threatened in Plumas National Forest by a fire that has spread across 35,200 acres
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park and Joshua Tree National Park are also affected by blazes
  • Four fires in San Diego County have razed over 2,300 acres of land and threaten to bring down power in a handful of communities.

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