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Cooler weather helps in Wyoming fire picture

Cooler weather helps in Wyoming fire picture; nearly 43,000 in West

Aug 16, 2012 - The Associated Press

Cooler temperatures are keeping wildfires in Wyoming in check for the time being.

Officials say they don't expect much activity Thursday on fires burning in remote areas of western Wyoming.

The Alpine Lake Fire in the Shoshone National Forest on the Wind River Indian Reservation and the Butte Creek Fire in the Teton Wilderness both have died down. The two fires have burned about 1,000 acres apiece.

Little burning is expected from the fires, which are between 9,000 and 10,000 feet altitude.

Forecasters say the weather is predicted to warm up again Friday, leading to more fire activity.

Firefighters used a helicopter to rescue five California men from a remote mountain fishing camp after a wildfire threatened their only way out. That blaze has burned 1,300 acres in the Shoshone National Forest, but no homes are in the extremely rugged area. Elsewhere in the state, firefighters had a 6,500-acre fire in Converse County nearly contained.

In Idaho, hundreds of people in two towns packed their belongings and left Wednesday ahead of a massive blaze expected to hit the area later this week. They joined scores of weary residents across several dry and hot western states that are dealing with one of the worst fire seasons in memory.

Not only are more wildfires flaring up in the West this year than last, but the nation's fires have gotten bigger, said Jennifer Smith, of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

As of Wednesday, nearly 43,000 wildfires had been reported in the U.S. this season, burning a total of 6.4 million acres, or 10,000 square miles. The 10-year average for this period is 52,535 fires but covering only 5 million acres, she said.

The massive Idaho wildfire has burned more than 100 square miles in the past two weeks. It was bearing down on Pine and Featherville, vacation towns in the mountains 105 miles northeast of Boise.

"It's not a question of if, but when," Boise National Forest spokesman Dave Olson said of the fire reaching Featherville's outskirts.

Crews faced nine big fires in Idaho, including one in the Salmon-Challis National Forest that stranded 250 rafters floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Authorities closed a backcountry access road due to falling boulders and debris caused by the blaze. Some rafters were stuck for two days before authorities began shuttling them out Wednesday.

Other wildfires across the West include:

- In Washington, hundreds of firefighters used bulldozers and hand tools to build containment lines and aircraft dropped water and fire retardant on a stubborn blaze east of the Cascades. Dozens of homes across roughly 35 square miles have been destroyed.

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