Entries in Southwest (2)


Western Wildfires: More Than 60 Fires Rage Across 10 States

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CLE ELUM, Wash.) -- The long hot summer of 2012 has turned the West into a tinderbox. More than 60 fires are raging in at least 10 states.

Cle Elum, Wash., has not had a drop of rain for three weeks. Add to that scorching heat and high winds and the town is on the edge.

Rhonda Griffin spent the day putting out hotspots after a sleepless night watching the garage and the shop next to her house burn to the ground. Somehow, even though every bit of land around her burned, her home survived.

The fire moved with incredible speed, blowing up from hundreds to thousands of acres in just hours and nearly overrunning a sanctuary for rescued lab chimps.

"Crews were running," said volunteer firefighter Gary Ackerson. "If you were caught in the wrong place you were getting in your rig and bugging out."

The staff at the sanctuary said the chimps are scared, but now out of danger.

Tuesday afternoon, Tricia Roghair and her husband and father-in-law were asleep in the living room after a night of battling flames with garden hoses.

Bone dry conditions, extreme heat and even dry lightning have scorched dozens of miles across Utah, Oregon and Northern California this week as well.  Firefighters battling the blazes are facing one of their deadliest years on record. Eleven firefighters have been killed in the line of duty so far this year.

Many of them are young seasonal workers like 20-year-old Anne Veseth, an energetic college student, who was killed in Idaho on Sunday by a falling tree.

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A fire safety officer told ABC News that even though the work is dangerous, young firefighters are closely watched to make sure they don’t get into deadly trouble.

"Fire fighting is inherently dangerous," said fire safety officer Steve Laramie. "We have many eyes looking around making sure everybody’s safe."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Annular Solar Eclipse 2012: Visible in West on Sunday

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Enjoy the sun. If you live along a narrow band across the southwestern United States, Sunday afternoon will bring the rare treat of an annular solar eclipse -- a ring of sunlight as the new moon, passing between Earth and the Sun, blocks most, but not all, of the Sun’s disc.

Mind you, this is not the kind of eclipse of which you usually see pictures -- the moon blocking the sun completely, creating a few moments of near-night in the middle of the day, with only the sun’s ethereal corona visible around the moon’s edges.  The sky will darken a bit, but there will still be a blindingly bright ring (an “annulus” in Latin) of sun, and it’s dangerous to look directly at it.

Still, there will be a striking sight to see, if you look at a heavily-filtered image projected onto a screen through binoculars or a small telescope, or protect your eyes with No. 14 arcwelders glass (not something found at most hardware stores).

The ring will be visible Sunday afternoon in a strip that begins on the California-Oregon coast and stretches southeastward across Reno, Nev., the Grand Canyon, and Albuquerque, N.M., and ends at sunset near Lubbock, Texas.  

Why this rare annular eclipse?  Because the moon, constant in size as it appears, does not move in a perfect circle around us.  Its orbit is slightly elliptical.  On average, it’s about 239,000 miles away, but at its closest it comes within about 225,000 miles of us.  At its farthest -- as it will be Sunday -- it’s a little more than 250,000 miles away.  It’s just enough of a difference so that the moon will only cover 88 percent of the sun.

The Interior Department points out that a number of national parks -- Redwoods and Lassen in California, Zion in Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona, Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico -- will all be at the center of the eclipse path.

But if you’re in the eclipse path, you really just need a place with a good clear view westward. You may want to go to a local observatory or planetarium, where viewing parties are likely.

And if you don’t feel like investing in welder’s glasses, you may be happy -- seriously -- with a piece of paper, or leafy trees around you.  Prick a small hole in the paper and it will act as a tiny lens, projecting a miniscule image of the sun onto the pavement.  Likewise, take advantage of the natural pinholes in many leaves.  As the eclipse approaches maximum, look down, not up.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see hundreds of little eclipse images dancing on the ground beneath your feet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio