Firefighter killed as wildfires rage across West
SAN FRANCISCO—A firefighter was killed in Idaho and another firefighter in Oregon suffered burns after she had to deploy her emergency fire shelter as wildfires continued raging across the Western United States.
Firefighter Anne Veseth, 20, was killed Sunday after she was struck by a falling tree while working on a fire near Orofino in northern Idaho, the U.S. Forest Service said.
"The Forest Service is devastated by the loss of one of our own," Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell said. "We ask the public to join us in keeping the family in their thoughts and prayers."
The incident is under investigation. Veseth, of Moscow, Idaho, was in her second season working as a firefighter. Her older brother is a wildland firefighter in Idaho. There are 12 active blazes across the state.
In southeastern Oregon, a firefighter was forced to crawl into her emergency shelter in an area overrun by swirling winds filled with fire. She was treated at a Nevada hospital Sunday for minor burns to a leg and forearm and minor smoke inhalation.
The rest of her 20-person federal crew made it to a safety zone. They have been pulled off the fire as that incident is under investigation.
The Holloway Fire has so far burned 525 square miles in remote and rugged terrain straddling the Oregon-Nevada border. On the Nevada side, five ranches were evacuated Sunday evening in the Kings River Valley about 10 miles southeast of Denio, Nev.
Meanwhile, crews in Northern California on Monday were making progress against an aggressive wildfire that has grown to more than 4 1/2 square miles and forced the evacuation of nearly 500 homes since it began Sunday.
Fire officials said the Wye Fire in Lake County was 25 percent contained. A second, smaller blaze known as the Walker Fire, near the border of Lake and Colusa counties, is now 30 percent contained.
Three buildings have burned and two people were treated for minor injuries.
There appears to be no end in sight for either fire as thousands of acres of dry brush continued to burn and fire officials have requested for multiple air tankers and helicopters to help.
Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Monday that the fires are fueled by triple-digit temperatures and slight winds.
"As we've seen over the last few weeks, the conditions remain critically dry and, with this latest heat wave, the temperatures certainly aren't helping," Berlant said. "We just have not had enough rainfall."
In Southern California, two fires sparked by lightning from Sunday thunderstorms continued to burn out of control Monday in the wilderness. No homes were threatened.
A 22-acre blaze near the San Diego County of Vallecito was burning through pine trees in a remote, rugged area that was hard for ground crews to reach.
Water-dropping aircraft and about 125 firefighters battled the blaze, state fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said.
The area got 635 lightning strikes from the weekend storms, which also caused flash flooding, making for "a gamut of hazards" that could repeat themselves Monday afternoon, when more thunderstorms are possible, Schuler said.
However, no injuries were reported and no homes were damaged.
Also, a 300-acre fire was burning in the Joshua Tree National Park, a desert preserve east of Palm Springs.
About 100 firefighters aided by water-dropping aircraft were on the scene. The fire was moving on boulder-strewn slopes scattered with cacti and scrubby 15-foot trees, park spokesman Joe Zarki said.
"It's rough terrain. The trees are tall enough and big enough that if they catch fire, they will burn readily," Zarki said Monday.
"Weather's going to be a big factor today," Zarki added, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees and scattered afternoon storms predicted.
A thunderstorm could help by bringing rain, Zarki said, but "if it just kicks up the wind a lot, then it could accelerate the fire."
Associated Press writers John Miller in Boise, Idaho, and Jeff Barnard in Grants Pass, Ore., and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.