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Town consumed by fire shows drought, wind danger persist this fall

© Bryan Horwath/The Dickinson Press/AP
A firefighter examines the flames as a fire sweeps through Bucyrus, N.D., on Wednesday night
When a grassfire destroyed most of tiny Bucyrus, N.D., this week, the "perfect firestorm" of conditions served as a reminder that the long-term drought, combined with unpredictable winds, makes for severe fire danger across the central U.S., even in the middle of autumn.

Four homes and 20 other structures were lost after the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon. Fanned by winds up to 70 mph, it consumed at least 6,000 acres and traveled 10 miles by Thursday morning, The Dickinson Press reported.

"This is like a nightmare," Linda Wiskus told The Dickinson Press. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone. ... We had about 15 minutes to get what we could. I grabbed a safe, a pair of jeans and some socks - I didn't have time to get anything else."

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but Bucyrus is in a county that's been in continued drought since October 2011, Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota's state climatologist, told NBC News. Conditions got even worse starting Oct. 2.

"When you combine warm, dry and windy conditions, it creates a perfect setting for elevated fire danger," Akyuz noted. Adding drought to that mix, he said, "makes it more dangerous conditions for fire."


St. Petersburg's largest fire in decade extinguished after all-night battle

© RIA Novosti / Vadim Zhernov
Fire in the Shushary industrial zone in St. Petersburg.
Firefighters successfully extinguished St. Petersburg's largest fire in decades after an all-night battle with the inferno. After a warehouse in the city's industrial zone caught fire, the blaze spread quickly to cover over 32,000 square feet.

The fire began Monday around 5:00pm GMT and was rated at level five - the highest in the Russian system.

Nearby workers noticed and reported the fire to authorities. Witnesses said that the city's entire southern region was cloaked in smoke, Vesti reported.


California wildfire destroys 20 homes, threatens more

© The Associated Press/The Press-Enterprise/Frank Bellino
Residents help battle the Temprano Fire Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 in Murrieta, Calif. near Warm Springs Park and Preserve. Firefighters raced the winds Monday morning to contain Southern California wildfires that destroyed 20 homes and threatened several hundred more in rural areas.
Residents of a rural San Diego County community were waiting anxiously to learn the fate of homes near a destructive 4-square-mile wildfire that has left one man dead.

Christopher Kirchner told U-T San Diego that his rental home was about 200 feet from a residence that burned down - one of 20 homes destroyed by the fire so far.

"I was just talking to some of my neighbors," Kirchner said. "They were crying and saying they had no place to go. We've heard rumors that our place is still standing, but nobody will tell us anything."

Firefighters recovered a man's body from one of the destroyed homes Monday, a state fire spokesman, Robbie Richard said. Authorities say the man ignored evacuation orders issued for the community of Tierra del Sol.

"He felt that he was going to be OK if he stayed," sheriff's Lt. Rose Kurupas told the newspaper. It was not clear whether he was notified of the order in person or by an automated phone call.

Authorities said neighbors reported the man missing when they saw his only vehicle parked at the home. Neighbors told U-T San Diego he was 82 and had only one leg.


Central Washington Wildfire Triples in Size, 600 Homes Under Threat

Spokane, Washington - The Table Mountain Complex of wildfires in central Washington's Chelan and Kittitas counties has tripled in size to more than 47 square miles, fire spokeswoman Jan Ulrich said Thursday.

A combination of factors - including warm temperatures, winds, very low humidity and low moisture in the vegetation - caused the complex to grow and merge into one large fire on Wednesday, Ulrich said.

"It was very active fire behavior yesterday and we are expecting the same today,'" Ulrich said Thursday.

The Table Mountain blaze is being fought by more than 750 firefighters and was 5 percent contained by Thursday night. It has not burned any homes, but Kittitas County Sheriff Gene Dana said Thursday that 161 homes north of Ellensburg and in the Liberty area are under a Level 3 evacuation, meaning residents are urged to leave.

The Table Mountain Complex is one of several wildfires burning on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range. The largest, the Wenatchee Complex, has grown to about 65 square miles. It was 24 percent contained and was being fought by more than 2,000 firefighters.

The fires are blanketing Eastern Washington with smoke, and dry conditions have led the state to issue restrictions on logging and other industrial activities in the forests.


Washington state wildfires prompt evacuations, destroy three homes

Seattle - Fast-growing wildfires destroyed three homes in Washington state on Wednesday and threatened 350 more buildings as firefighters worked to keep the flames at bay and hundreds of residents prepared to evacuate.

The fires raging in Washington have charred 130,000 acres and the weather could make things worse, officials said. The fires were among a cluster of blazes raging in the U.S. West.

"Conditions look horrible," said Paul Perz, the state's assistant fire marshal. "We're anticipating that unstable conditions and winds in eastern Washington will fuel the fires."

The wildfires were sparked by thousands of weekend lightning strikes that ignited more than 150 fires on Monday. Six new fires started on Wednesday.

The most menacing of the blazes, located about 140 miles east of Seattle, has spread to 9,500 acres and is threatening about 125 homes. More than 700 residents have been urged to evacuate.

Although 620 firefighters were on the scene, little of the fire was contained, Perz said.

"Portions of the town are threatened," said John Kruse, Wenatchee police sergeant. "Right now, we're taking it 12 hours at a time."

The so-called Barker Canyon Complex fire in the Grand Coulee region in eastern Washington destroyed three homes and nine outbuildings on Wednesday, but was 20 percent contained, Perz said.


500 firefighters face steep, dry terrain to battle blaze in California

© David Mcnew/Getty Images
U.S. Forest Service firefighters stand near flames at the Williams fire in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 4, north of Glendora, Calif.
A 3,600-acre fire in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles chewed through thick brush in steep terrain that hadn't burned in two decades amid hot, dry conditions.

But with no serious winds to whip it or push it, the fire made no move toward the Los Angeles suburbs to the south, remaining within the wilderness instead.

Because of the terrain and warm temperatures, it could take a week to contain the blaze, Incident Commander James Smith of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the Associated Press. It had burned about 5 1/2 square miles by late Tuesday. Containment was at 15 percent early Tuesday, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.

In an effort to further contain the blaze, firefighters are facing steep terrain with dry brush that has not burned for 15 to 20 years.

"You're going to see an air show out there today," Nathan Judy, Angeles National Forest Fire Information Officer told NBCLosAngeles.com.


Forest fire near Los Angeles could burn for days

Angeles National Forest fire
© Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
Fire crews continue fighting Williams blaze in Angeles forest September 3, 2012
Authorities battling a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest more than doubled their deployments Monday, with 700 firefighters attacking the blaze with air tankers and helicopters.

But it will probably take several more days to fully contain the fire, which has burned 3,600 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Azusa, said John D. Wagner, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. He said the steep terrain made firefighting difficult. The blaze remained about 5% contained late Monday.

"It's not really accessible by foot, so we have to do air drops over the area," Wagner said.


Portugal asks for EU help to tackle dozens of forest fires

Portugal forest fire
© BBC News
Dozens of fires have been raging in the country
Portugal has said it is seeking European Union help to to tackle raging forest fires, in one of the worst summers for such blazes in years.

Dozens of fires are raging in the centre and north of the country and 1,700 firefighters have been deployed.


Thousands of Serb villagers evacuated as wildfires rage unabated

Hundreds of wildfires have broken out in recent weeks
Serbia evacuated thousands of villagers on Saturday and called in the army to help fight wildfires raging through the drought-hit western Balkans.

Fires near the southwestern Serbian town of Cacak swept through hillsides and cornfields dried to a crisp by scorching temperatures, forcing the evacuation of three villages, a Reuters correspondent reported.

"I've lost everything," said Mileta Cajic, from the village of Srezojevci. "An entire orchard, woods, raspberries, and now my house is about to go up in flames. This is the worst disaster one could imagine."

Russia sent a Beriev Be-200 fire-fighting plane, with a capacity of 12 tonnes, to join a Russian helicopter that has been in action for days trying to douse the fires.


Wildfires in Spain force 1,000 to evacuate homes in worst fire-ravaged summer for 10 years


Firefighters battle a blaze in Bedar, Spain
Two wildfires in the south forced the evacuation of around 1,000 residents, making this the worst summer in a decade for countryside devoured by flames, authorities said Sunday.

A fire started near Bedar, 85 kilometres (about 50 miles) north of Almeria, where residents spent the night in a sports centre, regional officials said. Residents and army personnel have collaborated with firefighters in combating the flames, Bedar Mayor Maria Gonzalez said.

Another fire was being brought under control late Sunday near the Mediterranean beach resort of Estepona, about 35 kilometres (20 miles) west of Marbella.

This year, Spain has lost 149,300 hectares (577 square miles) of forest and countryside in more than 11,650 wildfires, compared to around 107,000 hectares (415 square miles) for the whole of 2002, according to official statistics.

Comment: Arson or not, they need a scapegoat to distract people from realising that the enormous cutbacks in public services are largely to blame:

Cuts blamed for deaths caused by devastating Spanish wildfires