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Hundreds evacuated in Nevada as series of wildfires flare across dry, hot West
The remains of a road sign sits in the road Saturday, July 7, 2007, near Cove Fort, Utah. It was burned Saturday afternoon, when the fire jumped the freeway. A massive wildfire that has swept across two central Utah counties grew to 283,000 acres Sunday _ a size fire officials say make it the largest in the state's recorded history. - photo by Associated Press
    RENO, Nev. — An 8,000-acre wildfire had forced hundreds of people to leave their homes in the northern Nevada town of Winnemucca, and scores fled homes in the path of a blaze in Washington state on Sunday.
    They were among several wildfires across the West on Sunday as a heat wave made parched terrain even drier. The Winnemucca fire was one of more than a dozen that had charred a combined 55 square miles.
    The Utah Highway Patrol on Sunday reopened a 100-mile stretch of Interstate 15 and 25 miles of I-70 that were closed when a 250-square-mile fire jumped the highways and filled the air with dense smoke. Poor visibility was blamed for several accidents, including a motorcycle crash that killed two people.
    Other fires blackened the landscape in California, South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon.
    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 Nevada fire had blackened 36 square miles, or 23,000 acres, along the Idaho state line, 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 a hospital for burns and released.
    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 closed a section of Interstate 80 for six hours during the night, fire information officer Tracie Winfrey said.
    High wind in central Washington state during the night spread a brush fire that was threatening homes outside the town of Wenatchee. By Sunday morning, 250 to 270 homes had been evacuated and more were under alert. At least three outbuildings were destroyed.
    Fire officials estimated the blaze had covered 800 and 1,000 acres, said Jeri Freimuth, a fire information officer.
    ‘‘It’s a pretty dynamic situation at this point. Until we can get people in there to see what the situation is we don’t know,’’ Freimuth said.
    The fire in central Utah had swept across parts of two counties, charring an estimated 160,000 acres, or 250 square miles, fire information officer LaCee Bartholomew said.
    ‘‘The fire laid down a little overnight, but it’s still active,’’ she said Sunday. ‘‘We don’t have an accurate updated acreage, but it did grow.’’
    A 2,500-acre fire forced evacuations Sunday of at least 50 homes near Hot Springs, S.D. The fire grew overnight because of erratic wind and some buildings were destroyed, state officials said.
    In California, more than 400 firefighters battled a blaze that had covered 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, tallest peak in the lower 48 states.
    At least 200 people from the small town of Independence, Calif., were evacuated, officials said, and a section of highway that runs along the eastern spine of the Sierra Nevada mountain range was closed.
    About two dozen people had fled two tiny northern Arizona communities Sunday as a blaze blackened 900 acres near Mormon Lake, southeast of Flagstaff. The communities, Long Park and Bear Park, have a combined 18 homes and summer cabins, said Coconino County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Gerry Blair.
    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.

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