July 6, 2015 / 10:37 PM / 5 years ago

Fast-moving Idaho wildfire destroys upscale homes in resort area

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A fast-moving wildfire in Idaho that destroyed several upscale homes and forced 200 residents to flee prompted the governor on Monday to declare a disaster emergency that would free up federal funds to help fight the blaze.

The Cape Horn fire has charred more than 2,000 acres (810 hectares) since breaking out on Sunday in a resort area in northern Idaho where there are clusters of multimillion-dollar homes on the banks of Lake Pend Oreille.

“We will continue to support the impacted jurisdictions in protecting lives, property and businesses,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said in issuing the declaration.

The Idaho fire was among nearly 40 large wildfires raging across the parched Western United States on Monday, including a blaze in Oregon that officials have deemed the biggest wildfire of the season for the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

In Oregon, the lightning-sparked 26,000-acre (10,520- hectares fire near the town of Dayville, about 125 miles (200 km) east of Bend, was about 15 percent contained, Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Joe Touchstone said.

It had forced about a dozen ranchers to move or prepare to move cattle to unaffected grazing lands typically designated for winter use, Touchstone said.

The fire also closed part of the Ochoco National Forest and was threatening prime habitat of the federally protected sage grouse, Touchstone said. 

“It is the biggest one so far for the season here in the Pacific Northwest,” Touchstone said.

In Washington state, nearly a dozen wildfires were burning in bone-dry conditions across the state, including a rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula where a 1,200-acre (485-hectare) blaze was 21 percent contained.

Smoke from fires in Canada were blanketing skies in Vancouver, British Columbia, with smoke and haze that was also affecting Washington state communities including Port Angeles.

Across the mountains in Washington state’s heartland, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office said a brush fire triggered evacuations and burned multiple structures in a mobile-home park in Moses Lake on Sunday.

In Seattle’s King County, a brush fire along the main north-south Interstate snarled traffic on Monday morning, although firefighters were able to contain the blaze, transit officials said.

Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho, and Shelby Sebens in Portland, Ore.; Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Alaska; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Peter Cooney

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