19,000 fire-fighters not enough for US blazes

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The Independent US

America has run out of fire-fighters to tackle the blaze sweeping its western states. Yesterday more than a million acres were on fire - the greatest area affected at one time since 1910 - but every one of the country's fire-fighters was already at work trying to halt the destruction.

America has run out of fire-fighters to tackle the blaze sweeping its western states. Yesterday more than a million acres were on fire - the greatest area affected at one time since 1910 - but every one of the country's fire-fighters was already at work trying to halt the destruction.

"This is a very uncharacteristic, abnormal fire season," said Lynn Burkett of the National Fire Information Centre. "We are at maximum capacity with our people out there."

Bruce Babbit, the Interior Secretary, said: "Additional bodies will not help. I'm not saying it will become catastrophic, but the probability that it will become worse is very high."

High winds in Montana and Idaho risk whipping the fires up to even larger conflagrations, bringing smaller blazes into vast fire-storms. "What you could have is a 20 to 40-mile wall of flame, and that would be unstoppable," said Larry E Hamilton, director of the National Office of Fire and Aviation.

There are nearly 19,000 fire- fighters at work in the western states, with 14,000 of them in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The US military has deployed about 2,000 troops, and Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, have sent hundreds of fire- fighters. On Friday, Montana declared a state of emergency.

"It's a very tough situation,'' Mr Babbit said, "and the weather prognosis is not good."

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