US Marines called up to combat western wildfires

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The Independent Online
LEAVENWORTH (AP) - A fire crew from Wisconsin gets into position to make a firebreak near a 90,000-acre area near Tyee Creek in Washington State, one of several crews called in as the north-west US is scorched by summer fires.

The people overseeing this struggle are quick to admit that when the breeze starts picking up and the cloying smoke begins to lift, all their technology can seem inadequate.

Across eight Western states, more than 14,000 civilian firefighters were battling 26 major fires yesterday. Nearly 2 million acres have been burned this year, more than in all of 1993, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho. A battalion of 550 US Marines joined the fray yesterday after eight hours of training. Their task is to shovel earth over burning embers and rake out firebreaks around the huge Tyee Creek fire, which blew up to almost 100,000 acres by early yesterday. A second battalion was arriving yesterday, and 1,000 Army troops from Fort Hood, Texas, were expected to start in Idaho and Montana today to do the heavy work so more experienced civilian firefighters can work more strategically. 'We're all getting pretty burned out,' said Bob Walker, a US Forest Service fire-behaviour analyst who has worked 20-hour days since lightning strikes sparked Washington's fires on 24 July.

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