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Wildfires blasting through West draw states to lend support

BLY, Ore. (AP) — Out-of-state crews headed to Montana Saturday to battle a blaze that injured five firefighters as the West struggled with a series of fires that have ravaged rural lands and destroyed homes.

Progress was being made on the nation’s largest blaze, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, but less than half of it had been contained, fire officials said. The growth of the sprawling fire had slowed but thousands of homes remained threatened on its eastern side, authorities said.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proclaimed a state of emergency for four northern counties because of wildfires that he said were causing “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” The proclamation opens the way for more state support.

On Saturday, fire crews from California and Utah were coming to Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte announced. Five firefighters were injured Thursday when swirling winds blew flames back on them as they worked on the Devil’s Creek fire burning in rough, steep terrain near the rural town of Jordan.

They remained hospitalized Friday but Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mark Jacobsen declined to release the extent of their injuries. The firefighters included three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crew members from North Dakota and two U.S. Forest Service firefighters from New Mexico.

In California, the Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe continued to burn through timber and chaparral and threatened communities on both sides of the California-Nevada state line. The fire, sparked by lightning July 4 in Alpine County, has destroyed at least 10 buildings.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Friday in Butte County, California, as the Dixie Fire continued to grow explosively eastward, becoming the state’s largest wildfire so far this year.

In north-central Washington, firefighters battled several blazes in Okanogan County that threatened hundreds of homes. And in northern Idaho, east of Spokane, Washington, a small fire near the Silverwood Theme Park prompted evacuations Friday evening in the surrounding area.

Although hot weather with afternoon winds posed a continued threat of spreading some blazes, weekend forecasts also called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and other states. However, forecasters said some could be dry thunderstorms that produce little rain but a lot of lightning, which can spark new blazes.

More than 80 large wildfires were burning around the country, most of them in Western states and they had burned some 1.4 million acres (2,135 square miles or more than 553,000 hectares) of land.

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