Entries in Wildfires (37)


Weather May Aid Crews Fighting California Wildfires

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Wildfires raging through Southern California have tripled in size to 28,000 acres as firefighters work to bring the blazes threatening nearly 4,000 homes under control.

More than 2,000 firefighters and structure protection crews from across the region worked tirelessly to protect buildings, including a naval training facility, from the raging fires in Camarillo, Calif.

Even residents have joined in to quell the early season flames. Eighteen year-old Brittany Smolarski used a bottle of water and her riding boots to stomp out a sudden spot fire while helping to evacuate horses.

"I've never been that close to a fire," Smolarski told Good Morning America. "That smoke is pretty deadly. I'm trying to protect everything that I can. I don't want my barn to burn up."

With red-flag warnings lifted on Friday, weather conditions may be turning in favor of the firefighters, reports the Los Angeles Times. The weekend's weather is expected to be cooler and more humid. Inland areas could temperature drops of 15 to 20 degrees along with potential rain showers that would aid efforts to control the flames.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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


Authorities Suspect Arson as Okla. Wildfires Force Evacuation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUTHER, Okla.) -- A dozen raging wildfires fueled by extreme heat and strong winds have forced hundreds of residents in central Oklahoma to evacuate, and investigators now suspect arson as the cause.  
The fires have scorched dozens of cars, homes and other structures as firefighters worked throughout Friday night into Saturday morning to bring the situation under control.  

Officials in Luther, about 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, are investigating reports that newspapers set on fire were thrown from a pickup truck. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said 25 homes and a day care center there have been destroyed, Oklahoma newspaper The Oklahoman reports.

The trucks was described as a 2008 black Ford F-150 with red lettering on its side, according to The Oklahoman.

Though several firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion as temperatures continue to climb above 100 degrees, no fatalities or serious injuries have been reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fourth of July Fireworks Spark Wildfire Fears

John White Photos/Flickr/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In Colorado Springs, Colo., entire neighborhoods have been reduced to apocalyptic landscapes in the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.  About 350 homes have been destroyed, but many more have been saved, thanks to crews battling the flames.

“They were eating smoke and fire, enduring so much brutal heat, but they saved this neighborhood,” said Steve Schoepper, a Colorado Springs firefighter.

Firefighters were on the ground again Tuesday and were getting help from the air. The massive C-130s have rejoined the fire fight after one that was battling a blaze in South Dakota crashed on Sunday, killing four.

Now the fear of new fires has led to communities in at least 20 states banning fireworks displays this July 4 because of tinder-dry conditions.

Indiana is one of the states where police will be watching the skies.

“It’s pretty much going to be a cat and mouse game, especially once the word get out that it could be a $2,500 fine or a B misdemeanor,” said Zachary Dalton of the Beech Grove Police Department.

One study found fireworks caused more than 15,500 blazes and $36 million in property damage in 2010. Firefighters say leaving the fireworks to the professionals is the best way to insure the only “bombs bursting” really are in air.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Firefighting Plane Crashes in South Dakota; Casualties Confirmed

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- An Air National Guard cargo plane based out of North Carolina crashed Sunday while fighting wildfires in South Dakota. Officials say six crew members were on board the C-130, but will only say there were casualties as well as survivors.

The plane had been dropping flame retardant on the White Draw fire near the town of Edgemont.

“Can't speculate on what may or may not have happened that caused the incident. That's going to be investigated in the next weeks and months,” said North Carolina National Guard spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver.

“There were casualties. There were lives lost. There were injuries,” Carver said. “We're very grateful for the survivors and our thoughts and our prayers and our hearts go out to the families that have lost loved ones.”

President Obama echoed that sentiment in a statement issued by the White House on Monday.

“The full details are still under investigation, but the crew of this flight – along with their families and loved ones – are in our thoughts and prayers.  

“The men and women battling these terrible fires across the West put their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans,” he said. “The airmen who attack these fires from above repeatedly confront dangerous conditions in an effort to give firefighters on the ground a chance to contain these wildfires – to save homes, businesses, schools, and entire communities.

“They are heroes who deserve the appreciation of a grateful nation.  I know Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. And I know that Americans join me in expressing my deepest gratitude for the selfless determination they and thousands of men and women involved in this fight in states across the country demonstrate every day.”

Northcom says the other seven C-130s have been placed on “an operational hold at the present time.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Tours Wildfire Damage in Colorado

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Reflecting on the devastation caused by the Colorado wildfires, President Obama said Friday that when natural disasters strike, “America comes together.”

“We all recognize that 'There but for the grace of God go I' -- we’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs,” the president said in Colorado Springs after seeing firsthand the damage caused by the worst wildfire in the state’s history.

The fires have ravaged the area, consuming more than 340 homes and forcing over 32,000 residents to evacuate. “The devastation is enormous,” Obama said.

The president first visited a neighborhood where many of the homes have been burned to the ground. Driving through the Mountain Shadows subdivision, the president passed half-melted children’s swing sets and the charred remains of family vehicles as plumes of smoke rose above the nearby mountains.

While some houses were unrecognizable others remained completely unscathed.

“You have a house that’s cinders. Next to it, it’s untouched,” the president noted as he talked with firefighters picking through the rubble of smoldering homes.

“This community is obviously heartbroken,” he said, before offering his prayers to the families.

In brief remarks, the president praised what he described as “outstanding coordination and cooperation between federal, state and local agencies.”

“We can make sure that they’re well-coordinated. But as I just told these firefighters, what we can’t do is to provide them with the courage and the determination and the professionalism, the heart that they show when they’re out there battling these fires,” he said. “They are genuine heroes.”

In addition to thanking firefighters and first responders, the president also met with evacuees during his roughly three hours on the ground in Colorado.

Visiting a YMCA shelter, the president said he could “only imagine how humbling it is to lose a home.”

He told the families that “everyone all across the country has Colorado Springs’ back.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Colorado Wildfires Destroy 'Hundreds' of Homes

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Rows of homes have been wiped out by the Waldo Canyon fire that continues to blanket the mountain town of Colorado Springs with thick smoke, officials said today.

"We now know hundreds of homes have been destroyed," Mayor Steve Bach said today. "We are working through the process, which is very painstaking, of assessing every address to make sure that we have absolutely accurate information on each address."

More than 1,000 firefighters are now battling the blaze, which has reportedly burned 18,500 acres. It remains at 5 percent contained, but fire officials said they expected that to increase today.

"Today is the first day in five or so days that we haven't had a red flag warning," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jerri Marr told ABC News affiliate 7 News in Denver.

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More than half of the U.S. fleet of C-130s has also dumped retardant on the area.

Although there were no reports of injuries or deaths, 40 people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Colorado Springs doctors said the air quality was at least 10 times worse than normal.

On Wednesday, severe heat and strong winds had firefighters bracing for worsening fire conditions, but today Incident Commander Rich Harvey said that his team had been able to control the "majority" of the fire despite the weather. More than 32,000 residents have been evacuated from the fast moving blaze that started Saturday. Many had just minutes to grab what they could and get out.

The FBI says it is investigating whether the wildfires in Colorado Springs resulted from criminal activity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Will Visit Colorado Fire Areas

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama announced that he will travel to the fire-plagued areas of Colorado this Friday to, “view the damage and thank the responders bravely battling the fire.”

Obama told Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach about his plan to visit in a phone call Wednesday afternoon. Obama called Hickenlooper and Bach, “to receive an update on damaging fires that are impacting a number of communities across the state, including the devastating Waldo Canyon fire that is affecting families, homes and businesses in Colorado Springs,” the White House said in a written statement.

“The president expressed his concern about the extent of damage to homes in the Colorado Springs area,” the statement read.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated that the administration has been focused on the massive wildfires that have been burning throughout the West.

“The president is being updated regularly,” Carney said. “More than an 8,400 personnel, 578 fire engines and 79 helicopters are operating on wildfires around the United States. More than half of federal wildfire-fighting resources are currently stationed in Colorado,” he said.

The statement also added that, “seventeen air tankers have cycled in and out of firefighting action over the last 48 hours across the western states.”

The White House says federal support is also being provided to local officials battling fires in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

“The president made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires. He asked the governor and the mayor to identify any additional resources that could be provided and informed both that his thoughts and prayers are with responders and families impacted by these and other fires burning across the western United States,” the statement read.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Firefighting Planes on the Way, But No Help Now

iStockphoto/Thinkstoc(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Forest Service Wednesday said four private companies have won contracts to provide seven “next-generation” firefighting airplane tankers, although they won’t help with wildfires now raging across Western states. The current fleet contracted to fight fires is an average of 50 years old.

The new planes will be jet-powered, fly at 300 knots (about 345 mph) and carry 2,400 gallons of retardant. But the seven new tankers won’t be much help against the 15 large wildfires burning in Western states. Only three of the seven planes will fly this year, and not until late summer, according to a Forest Service news release. The remaining four will not be available until 2013.

A series of high-profile crashes in 2002 and 2004 led to stricter safety standards that eliminated dozens of aging air tankers from the fleet. The number of available planes dropped from 44 in 2006 to only 11 at the beginning of this season. Critics have complained that the Forest Service has moved too slowly to modernize the fleet.

The agency’s own fact sheet calls for as many as 28 large air tankers.

In recent days the Forest Service has called on tankers borrowed from the Canadian government as well as state firefighting agencies in Alaska and California.

One of the companies awarded new contracts Wednesday is Neptune Aviation Services of Missoula, Mont. One of its planes crashed June 3 while dropping retardant on a fire in Utah, killing both pilots.

A preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board did not cite a cause. Neptune removed another of its older tankers from service in February after finding a crack in a wing.

In addition to Neptune, contracts were awarded to Minden Air Corp. of Minden, Nev.; Aero Air LLC of Hillsboro, Ore.; and Aero Flite Inc. of Kingman, Ariz.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Massive Wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico Force Hundreds to Evacuate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(DENVER) -- Firefighters in New Mexico and Colorado are battling wildfires that have spread quickly in all directions, forcing hundreds to flee from their homes across both states.

In Colorado, at least 18 structures -- including homes -- have been destroyed, with one person missing and feared dead, according to authorities.  In just two days, flames have torched over 30 square miles.

"If you talk about worst-case scenario, this is our worst-case scenario," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said.

Hundreds of residents have been evacuated ahead of the flames.  Authorities sent at least 2,575 evacuation notices, but it wasn't clear how many residents had to leave, according to ABC News affiliate KMGH in Denver.

Some residents claim they didn't receive any notice and their only warning was hearing the fire coming toward their doorsteps.

"It was terrible.  It sounded like a hurricane," said Sandra Mullen, according to KMGH.  "I think everything will be gone.  My husband is 78 and I'm 75, so when you're that old, it's too hard to start over."

"It looked like Armageddon," said resident Joanne Hertz.  "I have absolutely no clue if my house is still standing."

Resources are spread thin in Larimer County as other western states need tankers, helicopters and ground crews to battle their own wildfires, sheriff's spokesman Nick Christensen told KMGH.

In New Mexico, a destructive fire near Ruidoso tripled in size over the weekend and destroyed 40 buildings.  Crews were working to build a fire line around the blaze, which started Friday.

The exact number of evacuations is not known, but they were reported to be in the hundreds.

Winds and dry air continue to fuel the burning fires -- everything needed for a perfect firestorm.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio