Strong winds stoke American forest fires

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The Independent US

Hundreds of new forest fires were reported throughout the American West yesterday as more hot, dry weather and strengthening winds stoked the flames and officials warned that things would get worse before they got better.

Hundreds of new forest fires were reported throughout the American West yesterday as more hot, dry weather and strengthening winds stoked the flames and officials warned that things would get worse before they got better.

The National Fire Information Center said there were 69 big fires in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming which had burnt 923,000 acres. It said: "Priorities during the next few days will be to provide for public safety, as new and existing fires may be pushed by forecasted winds of 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph."

Reinforcements from the US military, Australia and New Zealand were due yesterday in Missoula, Montana, to help fight fires in the northern Rockies. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency toured the state, one of the worst-hit.

State, local and federal fighting costs have topped $62m (£41m) in Montana, where 6,154 firefighters were at work. Nevada's largest fire was 95 per cent contained but two other remote blazes continued to grow. Nearly 3,700 firefighters were operating in Idaho.

This year US wildfires have consumed 4.4 million acres (6,875 sq miles). It is expected to be the worst year for fires in three decades, in part because of weather caused by La Niña climatic phenomenon, the reverse of El Niño.

There has been debate about how far this year's events could have been foreseen and averted, with claims that the environmentalists who have campaigned against logging in the West added fuel to the flames.

Other critics are angry that prescribed burns - starting fires deliberately to take away the undergrowth - have been responsible for the destruction of some homes.

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