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|Sunday, August 13, 2000, updated at 12:46(GMT+8)|
Weary Firefighters Struggle to Contain US Blazes
"We are right now at the ragged edge of having enough rested firefighters and resources," said Richard Wisehart of the National Fire Information Centre in Boise.
Fire officials said 69 large fires were burning in 11 Western states in the worst fire season in nearly 50 years, with dry weather and high winds helping to stoke the blazes.
"It's about the same as it's been the last few days,"
Wisehart said. "We have contained some fires but there are also some new starts."
The worst fires were in Montana and Idaho, where an estimated 2,200 lightning strikes have touched off additional blazes in the last two days.
In Wyoming on Friday a firefighter was killed battling a blaze in the central part of the state. It was the sixth fatality involving US wildfires this year.
Officials said the death occurred when strong winds redirected the blaze into the path of a fire truck. Another firefighter was injured and reported in stable condition.
Wisehart, working out of the National Interagency Fire Centre, said more than 900,000 acres (364,500 hectares) were burning around the country.
So far this year, about 4.4 million acres (1.78 million hectares) have been scorched. Dry, hot conditions and gusty winds this week offered little relief.
Wisehart said help was coming from overseas, with 79 experienced fire crew bosses from Australia and New Zealand set to lead a battalion of Army engineers. They were expected to leave for Montana on Sunday.
Firefighters have arrived from across the United States and Canada, and retired fire managers have been asked to return to duty.
In Montana, the hardest-hit state, some 1,800 student firefighters will be allowed to qualify for a late start to their fall semester.
The state's governor has ordered as many as 8 million acres (3.25 million hectares) of public land + representing an area the size of Vermont + closed except to people with special permits.
Firefighting efforts in Montana remained focused on blazes in the Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula, where an estimated 2,000 people have been evacuated.
US Forest Service officials have promised an investigation after some local residents became angry over a backfire set by firefighters that burned some houses.
One of two major Montana power lines snapped by fire on Wednesday remained down. The lines bring power from the Colstrip coal-fired plant in Montana to the Pacific Northwest.
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