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Progress on major western wildfires

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POSTED July 8, 2014 8:19 p.m.

WINTERS (AP) — Crews boosted by hundreds of additional firefighters increased containment on Tuesday of a wildfire in rugged and steep terrain in Northern California, and full containment is expected by the end of the week on what is one of dozens of blazes blackening parts of the West.

Drought has made for a fire-friendly landscape in several western states, where flames are churning through dry vegetation. The White House on Tuesday said President Barack Obama would ask Congress for $615 million to help fight the fires this season.

The 10-square-mile Monticello Fire near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County didn’t grow overnight and was 55 percent as of Tuesday morning, up 10 percent from the previous night, state fire spokesman Dennis Mathisen said.

“Firefighters made lot of good progress,” he said.

Fire crews also increased containment of several wildfires covering a combined 33 square miles of desert rangeland in eastern Nevada and southwestern Utah, including the 14-square-mile Lages Fire. No homes or other structures were threatened.

In Northern California, Mathisen said about 300 additional firefighters were brought in Monday from another blaze in Northern California that is nearing full containment.

All road closures were also canceled. Evacuation orders for about 40 homes were called off on Sunday. Lake Berryessa, about 75 miles northeast of San Francisco, is a popular recreation spot that attracts boaters and campers during the Fourth of July weekend.

The fire, which started on Friday, has been fueled by gusty winds and thick, brittle brush that has not burned for at least two decades and is extremely dry because of the drought. Temperatures have soared past 100 degrees.

Such dry conditions have hurt the fight against other wildfires in Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah and Washington state.

In northern New Mexico, a lightning-sparked, 5 1/2-square-mile fire was 95 percent contained.

In Idaho, all evacuations were lifted Monday as more crews were dispatched to the Colorado Gulch Fire in Blaine County as flames spread. The fire has blackened a square mile since it started Sunday, and officials hope to have it contained by Tuesday.

In central Washington, authorities had advised residents in about 70 homes near a wildfire to prepare to evacuate, but by Tuesday morning authorities said evacuations were unlikely.


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