Friday, July 20, 2007

U.S. wildfires stretch resources to the max

Environment News Service: The West is ablaze with major fires which have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources, prompting the National Interagency Fire Center today to declare its highest alert level.

Level 5 preparedness is declared only when large fires occur in many areas at once, requiring a heavy commitment of crews, aircraft, and equipment, along with a forecast for continued hot, dry, windy conditions. Initial fire attack was heavy across the nation with 412 new fires yesterday. Since Monday, more than 1,000 new fires have been reported.

Idaho's 48,000 acre Tongue Complex fire is in steep and inaccessible terrain with poor access. (Photo courtesy South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Manangemt)

Currently, Idaho and Nevada have 43 large fires with more than 511,000 acres burned.

With hundreds of thousands of acres burning in Nevada, Governor Jim Gibbons declared a state of emergency, mobilizing resources to battle the blazes and facilitating financial assistance after they are out.

…Lack of resources to fight a complex of seven fires 20 miles north of Carlin, Nevada, has resulted in today's spread of the lightning-sparked blaze to 24,000 acres of grass and sage. Only 58 firefighters are doing battle, while unpredictable wind and weather are forecast.

Fire broke out Wednesday night at the edge of the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, INL, a 890 square mile nuclear energy research site in southeastern Idaho. The Materials and Fuels Complex, where most of the radioactive materials are located, was closed today. Lab officials said, "No INL facilities are threatened by the fire."

...Rain brought relief to firefighters on several large fires in Oregon and Montana today, while rain dampened northern Nevada Monday, dousing numerous lightning strikes. Cooler weather with higher humidity is forecast for the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.

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