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Fire restrictions expand as 14 large wildfires burn in Idaho

July 14, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Fire restrictions were implemented in Idaho due to hot and dry weather as 14 large wildfires burned throughout the state on Wednesday, state and federal public land managers said.

The wildfires have scorched about 200 square miles (518 square kilometers) in the northern half of the state.

The largest was the Snake River Complex of three fires about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Lewiston in steep terrain in the Craig Mountains. The lightning-caused fires have consumed about 150 square miles (390 square kilometers), burning through grass and timber, often in steep canyons.

Fire managers report that firefighters are having a tough time controlling the blaze because of dry vegetation, steep slopes, poor access and hot temperatures that are giving the blazes more time to burn.

About 340 personnel are assigned to the fire, and are receiving help from two Idaho National Guard Black Hawk helicopters called into action by Republican Gov. Brad Little last week.

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Nearly 400 firefighters and support personnel are at the lightning-caused Dixie-Jumbo fires just north of the town of Dixie in northern Idaho.

Fire officials said the 30-square-mile (75-square-kilometer) blaze is making upslope runs in timber stands and killing up to 60% of the trees. The fires are shooting out embers that cause spot fires on ridges and exposed slopes. It has also forced evacuations in the lightly populated area.

Climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years, and scientists have long warned that the weather will get wilder as the world warms. Special calculations are needed to determine how much global warming is to blame, if at all, for a single extreme weather event.

Federal and state land managers working together have put the northern third of the state under fire restrictions that prohibit campfires and smoking outside of a vehicle except in an area free of flammable material.

In most of the rest of the state, officials expect to implement restrictions that limit campfires to designated recreation sites by Friday.