Rain eases deadly US wildfires

 

Rain has cooled Colorado's deadly wildfires, but more than a dozen blazes elsewhere in the West have continued chewing through bone-dry pine and brush as firefighters keep a nervous eye for fireworks and other hazards.

Wildfires in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado sent haze and smoke across Colorado's Front Range, prompting air-quality health advisories as firefighters warned of growing fires in sparsely populated areas.

In Colorado Springs, there was good news in the fight against the most destructive fire in state history.

Light rains that fell overnight helped calm the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has scorched 28 square miles, killed two people and destroyed almost 350 homes.

Firefighters predicted full containment of the fire by Sunday, with more rain, cooler temperatures and higher humidity predicted through the weekend.

The forecast was not as kind in eastern Montana, where a mammoth 380-square-mile fire in Custer National Forest is gobbling up pine, juniper and sage with help from gusty winds. The fire has burned 16 homes.

Firefighters gave the blaze "extreme" growth potential, with wind gusts up to 45mph predicted. Temperatures are expected to reach over 40C.

As firefighting efforts continued, holiday fireworks were cancelled across the region. Colorado officials were calling off holiday displays from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, while police were warning of hefty fines for people caught violating personal fireworks bans across the region.

Residents in some parched areas were joining police. In one Colorado Springs neighbourhood, a homemade sign read, "FAIR WARNING: Anyone using or allowing use of fireworks in this neighbourhood will be dealt with harshly! And that doesn't mean just by the police!"

The National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho, which co-ordinates wildfire-fighting efforts nationwide, said 45 large fires were burning, including 36 in nine Western states. In Colorado alone, three fires have destroyed more than 600 homes and killed six residents.

AP

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