Fire crews fight heat, wildfires in west

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY  — Firefighters had to contend with triple-digit temperatures Friday in Utah, Southern California and Oregon as they battled wildfires that charred thousands of acres in rugged terrain.

Crews managed to keep a week-old blaze that killed three people and destroyed a dozen homes in northeastern Utah from growing much larger, despite gusty wind, officials said.

Twelve helicopters and more than 800 firefighters were working the fire 100 miles east of Salt Lake City. It was 50 percent contained Friday and had consumed just over 66 square miles in Uintah and Duchesne counties.

"The hard work of the crews paid off as containment lines held as winds gusted up to 30 mph," the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said.

On the Utah-Arizona line, where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, 50 firefighters and two air tankers fought a blaze southwest of St. George that was sparked by lightening Thursday and burned at least 4,000 acres, or six square miles.

"Erratic winds caused the fire to quickly grow in size and remain extremely active throughout the night," the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said. "Smoke from the Black Rock Gulch fire is visible from St. George and surrounding communities."

In Southern California, 1,500-acre wildfire burned Friday in the foothills of Santa Barbara County. It was 30 percent contained and had "potential to grow," county fire Capt. Eli Iskow said.

The fire broke out Wednesday about 15 miles north of Los Olivos and burned in chaparral and stands of oaks. The cause was under investigation.

Another fire was contained at 400 acres in the high desert of San Bernardino County after burning through foothills in Lucerne Valley, said Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

It was started by lightning from a dry thunderstorm on Thursday, Peters said.

The storm's high winds fanned the flames across a sparsely populated area near the backside of the San Bernardino Mountains but they later subsided, Peters said.

In southeast Oregon, a burning vehicle ignited a wildfire Thursday that grew to 10,000 acres. It was burning Friday five miles away from the Oregon State University's Northern Great Basin Experiment Station, federal officials said.

"The fire is burning in sagebrush, grass and juniper and spreading in multiple directions, mostly north and east," roughly 30 miles southwest of Riley, said Tara Martinak of the Bureau of Land Management's Burns District.

The fire threatened cattle, power lines and Camp Gap Ranch, one of the original camps established to support President Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps. But the burned vehicle was the only reported damage.

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