- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

Fire crews stepped up their attack Monday against wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes and forced hundreds to flee in Western states.

Calmer weather on Sunday helped firefighters tighten their grip on the blazes, but dry, hot weather is expected in the days ahead.

With most available firefighters, aircraft and engines already working on the wildfires, the National Interagency Fire Center announced Monday that it was calling on the military for help. Two hundred active-duty troops will spend most of this week training, managers at the fire center said, and they will be deployed to a fire on Aug. 23.

It’s the first time the agency has mobilized the military since 2006.

A look at conditions:



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WASHINGTON

More crews, including some from the Washington National Guard, were being mobilized as several large fires threatened homes in the Chelan area in central Washington.

The blazes have destroyed more than 50 structures, forced about 1,500 residents to flee and scorched more than 155 square miles. Scores of homes remain threatened.

Fire incident spokesman Wayne Patterson says air tankers established lines to keep the flames from reaching downtown Chelan, a popular resort town. Helicopters have been dipping into Lake Chelan to pull up water to battle blazes north of the lake.

“There were literally people on the beaches near that lake, in their swim wear out on the lake right near it,” Patterson told The Associated Press.

Improved weather helped firefighters Sunday, but hot temperatures and low humidity are expected this week.

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OREGON

Clothing, food, and livestock feed are pouring into the eastern Oregon town of John Day to help the 26 families who lost their homes in a wind-driven wildfire.

The Canyon Creek Complex fires were started by lightning on Tuesday, and on Friday one of them jumped containment lines and roared up a canyon south of Canyon City, driven by 40 mph winds.

The fire on the Malheur National Forest has grown to more than 60 square miles. The blaze, one of a dozen large wildfires charring the state Monday, continues to challenge firefighters due to the dry conditions, rugged terrain and afternoon winds.

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IDAHO

Wildfires have destroyed 42 homes and at least 79 outbuildings in northern Idaho near the town of Kamiah.

More than 700 firefighters along with 40 fire engines and four helicopters were trying to protect homes Monday, but residents along an 11-mile section of U.S. Highway 12 were told to be ready to flee.

The group of lightning-caused fires has scorched about 70 square miles of mainly forest lands and was 15 percent contained.

A 70-year-old woman was killed when she fell while preparing to flee from the wildfire, the Idaho County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday. Cheryl Lee Wissler of Adams Grade died Friday from a head injury she suffered when she fell, authorities said.

On the Idaho-Oregon border some 800 firefighters had a giant 443-square-mile wildfire 70 percent contained.

The week-old fire has scorched grassland that is needed for cattle and is primary habitat for sage grouse, a bird under consideration for federal protections.

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CALIFORNIA

A fire that has been burning for more than a week about 100 miles north of San Francisco has destroyed nine homes and charred more than 39 square miles

But firefighters are gaining ground against the wildfire with 85 percent containment reported Monday.

Fire officials say that over the weekend smoke from the fire drifted into the San Francisco Bay Area and especially east of the city, where it was trapped in valleys for several days, causing hazy skies and breathing difficulties for some.

The fire is the second of two blazes that have charred land near dry Lower Lake. The first one, which was contained Friday after more than two weeks, destroyed 43 homes.

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COLORADO

Lightning across northwestern Colorado is suspected of sparking about 30 fires over the weekend, keeping firefighters running from one blaze to another.

The largest of the wildfires was burning on more than 1,000 acres 20 miles north of Craig. It was 80 percent contained Monday.

Many smaller fires were contained.

More than 4,000 lightning strikes hit northwestern Colorado on Saturday and Sunday.

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MONTANA

So many wildfires have ignited across the Northern Rockies this month that fire officials are allowing some that might have been snuffed out under normal circumstances to burn.

There were 86 active fires burning across Montana and Idaho as of Monday, and seven in Montana were listed as unstaffed due to a lack of resources, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center. All seven are small fires burning in remote areas in northwestern Montana.

More than 100 aircraft, 75 crews and 229 fire engines were being used to fight fires in Montana and Idaho, according to the center. Additional crews and equipment were being used for fires outside the Northern Rockies.

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