Wildfires threaten homes in several western states

Firefighter killed by a falling tree as she worked a fire near Orofino, Idaho

By Terry Collins
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wildfires have destroyed dozens of homes and threatened hundreds more in several western U.S. states, including Idaho, where an on-duty firefighter was killed by a falling tree.

Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old who was in her second season as a firefighter, was killed Sunday as she worked a fire near Orofino, the U.S. Forest Service said. Her older brother also is a wild-land firefighter in Idaho, where 12 blazes are burning.

“The Forest Service is devastated by the loss of one of our own,” Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said.

Officials were investigating the death, which came on the same day that another firefighter narrowly escaped a wildfire in southeastern Oregon.

That firefighter was forced to deploy her emergency shelter in an area overrun by wind-whipped flames. She suffered minor burns to a leg and forearm and minor smoke inhalation.

Her 20-person federal crew made it to a safety zone and was pulled off the fire. The blaze scorched about 653 square miles in remote terrain straddling Oregon and Nevada, where five ranches in the Kings River Valley were evacuated.

A crew in central Washington state also barely outran flames Monday at a wind-driven fire in Kittitas County. The firefighters managed to drive to safety as they got ahead of the Taylor Bridge fire.

That same fire destroyed 40 homes since it ignited Monday east of the town of Cle Elum.

Officials said more homes were burning or under threat near the small town about 60 miles west of Seattle, but no injuries were reported so far. Grassel said the fire crept within six miles of the nearby city of Ellensburg, though crews stopped its forward movement.

In Utah, a lightning-sparked fire consumed about 34 square miles, threatened a herd of wild horses and shut down the historic Pony Express Road in the state’s western desert.
Meanwhile, crews in Northern California made progress against an aggressive wildfire in Lake County that grew to more than 9 square miles and destroyed three buildings.

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