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Wildfires rage in Washington, around the west

Firefighters set back fires as they work to put out a brush fire Thursday in San Clemente, Calif.
Firefighters set back fires as they work to put out a brush fire Thursday in San Clemente, Calif. Orange County Register via AP

A wildfire burning in dry grasslands northwest of Quincy grew dramatically on Thursday, driven by hot weather and gusty winds.

The fire increased in size from 16 square miles on Wednesday to 74 square miles on Thursday, the state Department of Natural Resources said. It was being fought by 275 firefighters, who had it 20 percent contained.

“Dry and gusty red flag conditions resulted in extreme fire growth in steep and rugged terrain,” the agency said in a statement.

The lightning-caused fire started earlier in the week, and roared through ranch land owned by Molly Linville. She took to Facebook to write about the flames burning across her ranch on Tuesday night. But she noted that her cattle and farmhouse all survived.

“I still cannot figure out how they survived,” Linville wrote. “Counting my blessings.”

Meanwhile, a fire burning near Yakima prompted the mandatory evacuation of about 20 homes, with the occupants of another 100 homes warned to be ready to leave quickly. That fire was 4.7 square miles and was 80 percent contained. No structures have been damaged and no injuries were reported.

Another fire burning near Wenatchee covered 14 square miles Thursday, and was 60 percent contained Thursday afternoon and not growing. That fire threatened about 80 homes. It did not grow overnight, the natural resources agency.

A fire burning 15 miles south of East Wenatchee, jumped from 16 square miles on Wednesday to 59.3 square miles on Thursday. The fire was only about 10 percent contained.

In Arizona, crews made considerable progress Thursday fighting a forest fire that shut down youth summer camps, forced thousands from their homes and came dangerously close to consuming a town.

The fire was one of the top firefighting priorities in the U.S. after it rapidly grew in size while burning through a dense, rugged forest.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey toured the fire zone about 100 miles north of Phoenix and thanked firefighters for saving communities at risk of being overrun by flames.

Authorities estimated that the fire burned a handful of homes, but did not have an exact count.

It also ruined vacations for children and campers in a cooler part of Arizona that many head to in the summer to escape the stifling desert heat of Phoenix.

Ducey noted that Friday marks the 4-year anniversary of a wildfire that killed 19 elite firefighters in Yarnell, about 45 miles southwest of Prescott Valley.

Elsewhere, hundreds of people forced from their homes by a Utah wildfire were expected to return home even as the blaze grew.

Fire managers said Thursday that 25-mph wind gusts expanded the wildfire near the ski resort town of Brian Head to more than 91 square miles, though firefighters boosted its containment to 15 percent. The fire was ignited by someone using a weed-burning torch.

In Southern California, a wildfire burning on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base and in the city of San Clemente was about 10 percent contained. Officials there say higher humidity levels slowed the fire’s pace.

Fires that flared dangerously close to homes in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles and in the city of Burbank were knocked down.

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