Idaho Range Fire Grows to 180,000 Acres

CASTLEFORD, Idaho (AP) -- A huge Idaho range fire has scorched about 180,000 acres in remote Owyhee County, but fire officials said shifting winds may allow them to contain the blaze by midweek.

Sparked Friday night by dry lightning and pushed by 35 mph winds, the Clover fire raced through sage and grass Sunday, burning one wheatfield and a ranch building.

''I've been out here watching it all day,'' Sharlee Blick, who lives near Castleford, said Sunday. ''You can just see cows in a dead run, trying to outrun it. That was kind of scary.''

The fire fed on dry grass that has thrived during an unusually wet spring.

''We're talking tall, thick grass,'' said Sky Buffat, a BLM spokeswoman in Twin Falls. ''Just because there was so much spring rain, we've had to deal with some heavy fuels this year.''

Buffat said the fire was 30 percent contained and could be fully contained by late Wednesday because the wind is expected to push flames back into already burned areas.

Fewer than 10,000 people live in Owyhee County, which is six times the size of Delaware.

Across the state line to the south, Nevada's Esmeralda fire was about 5 percent contained by midday Monday after burning 35,000 to 40,000 acres near the town of Midas.

It was burning away from the small town in an area with active mines, grazing allotments and sage grouse habitat, said fire spokeswoman June McMillen. No structures were lost and none were immediately threatened, she said. There were no reports of injuries.

Another Nevada fire, 20 miles south of Jackpot near the Nevada-Idaho line, was 50 percent contained. The 3,000-acre blaze burned some outbuildings but there were no reports of other structures being lost or damaged, officials said.

Elsewhere in the West, crews were battling a 2,800-acre wildfire near Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado that threatened nine homes and some other buildings. The blaze, which started Thursday, was believed to have been caused by lightning. It was 20 percent contained Monday.

In Arizona, residents began returning Monday to a Dudleyville mobile home park that was evacuated Sunday because of a wildfire that destroyed three homes and 10 other buildings, including sheds, a Pinal County official said.

The fires were among 25 large wildfires active Monday in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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