RENO, Nev. - An 8,000-acre wildfire forced hundreds of people in the town of Winnemucca to leave their homes, one of more than a dozen blazes that charred a combined 55 square miles in northern Nevada.

The blaze was among a series that dotted the West on Saturday as a heat wave made parched terrain even drier, forcing authorities to evacuate homes and close highways and wilderness areas.

A 100-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in central Utah was closed when a 160,000-acre wildfire jumped the highway, and other fires burned in California, South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The fire near Winnemucca, about 170 miles east of Reno, threatened up to eight blocks of homes and an electrical substation, said U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Jamie Thompson.

"It's right up to the south edge of town," he said. "The fire definitely poses a danger to parts of the town. It's certainly got everyone's attention."

The largest of the Nevada fires burned 36 square miles, or 23,000 acres, along the Idaho border, said Mike Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It was 10 percent contained Saturday, officials said. A firefighter was treated at and released from a hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho, with burns.

Another fire blackened 11 square miles, or 7,000 acres, about five miles southwest of Carlin. It burned two mobile homes and several smaller structures, and shut down a section of Interstate 80 for six hours overnight, fire information officer Tracie Winfrey said. On Saturday morning, the fire was 40 percent contained.

Yet another Nevada fire that was started by lightning Saturday threatened structures and led to the evacuation of campers about 30 miles south of Elko, officials said.

The Utah fire, about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City, also forced the evacuations of Cove Fort and the Blundell Geo Thermal Power Plant, where it was threatening railroad lines, bridges and several homes, Color County Fire Information Officer LaCee Bartholomew said.

Interstate 70 was also closed in Richfield, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steve Winward said.

A 2,500-acre fire forced evacuations Sunday of at least 50 homes near Hot Springs, S.D. The fire grew overnight due to extreme fire behavior and erratic winds, and some buildings were destroyed, state officials said.

In California, more than 400 firefighters battled a blaze that has consumed 17,000 acres of the 2 million-acre Inyo National Forest east of Yosemite National Park, forest spokeswoman Nancy Upham said Saturday. Firefighters were searching for and evacuating hikers and backpackers on and near the popular trail to Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states.

At least 200 people from the small town of Independence were evacuated, officials said, and a section of Highway 395, which runs along the eastern spine of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, was closed. Campgrounds and a lodge had been evacuated, Upham said.

In Southern California, a wildfire charred 6,300 acres of wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest.


Associated Press writers Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City, Carson Walker in Sioux Falls, S.D., Rachel Konrad in San Francisco and Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.