Wildfires Burning Out of Control in the West

August 17, 2012; 3:10 AM ET
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This undated photo, <a href="http://inciweb.org/incident/photograph/3147/1/">courtesy of InciWeb.org</a>, shows smoke from the Ramsey Fire burning in northern California.

Numerous wildfires are burning out of control across the western U.S., while the fire season approaches its traditional late-summer peak and heat grips the region.

One fire took a deadly turn over the weekend when a 20-year-old firefighter battling one of the fires in Idaho was killed on Sunday, when a tree fell on her in a thick forested area.

It was the first death of a Forest Service firefighter since 2009.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are 62 large and uncontained fires burning across the nation. While a handful were in Oklahoma and Texas, the majority were across California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana.

The largest fire, sparked by lightning last week, has burned through more than 436,000 acres in northern Nevada and Oregon. Known as the "Holloway Fire," it is nearly 71 percent contained, according to InciWeb.org.

Fifteen-foot high flames were seen shooting from the fire on Monday.

This map, powered by Google Maps from InciWeb.org, shows the extent of fires across the Northwest from northern California to Montana.

In California, a pair of fires burning north of San Francisco in Lake County forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

The fires in the Golden State have injured at least one firefighter and one civilian.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has much of the Great Basin region pegged as being in drought conditions, with the drought in a good portion of Nevada characterized as "severe" or "extreme."

Some areas haven't seen rain for months, so brush and trees are very dry. This means there is plenty of fuel for fires to burn.

Combined with searing temperatures well into the 90s and even low 100s, firefighters are up against some rough conditions.

With a ridge of high pressure firmly in charge, the dry heat will last into at least next week. Any thunderstorm that pops up in the higher terrain will only add to the fire danger since it will feature lightning that could spark new fires and very little rain.

Recent bouts of rain in Colorado has all but doused the fires that were burning out of control there earlier in the summer.


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