Some 1,700 firefighters battled a number of raging wildfires in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park Tuesday, including a blaze burning only miles from the Old Faithful geyser, while lightning strikes triggered a new wave of fires elsewhere in the West.
Authorities said at least 12 fires were burning in the country's oldest national park, charring more than 50,000 acres of the 2.2-million acre park.Although sections of two roads and two campgrounds remained closed, the vast bulk of Yellowstone's attractions remained open, including its Grant Village visitor's center, where a fire that has blackened 9,000 acres reached within 200 yards of the development.
In Alaska, the number of acres scorched by a rash of fires surpassed 1 million, and forest and timber fires crackled out of control in Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Nevada.
Making things difficult was a spell of hot, dry weather in most of the West, with temperatures pushing into the 90s and 100s in Washington, southern Oregon and northern Texas.
Dry-lightning strikes in Nevada Monday afternoon ignited more than 25 brush and forest fires with the biggest at 200 acres at the north end of Smith Valley. No structures were threatened in any of the blazes.
The biggest fires were in Alaska, where 1,198,689 acres were ablaze, half of that charred by two fires.
A 323,000-acre fire was raging in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge 60 miles north of Fairbanks, and a blaze in the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge grew to 207,000 acres, defying weekend containment pre-dictions.
There were 1,325 Alaska firefighters struggling to encircle 22 fires. Another 31 blazes were being monitored only.
But the most worrisome outbreaks were in and around Yellowstone.
Park spokesman Bill Schreier said firefighters protected buildings at Grant Village as flames moved within one-eighth of a mile from the complex. A 22-mile stretch of road from Yellowstone's south entrance was closed because of that fire and two others burning in the park's south end.
Twenty miles north, the North Fork fire grew to 2,700 acres overnight and swept to within 9 miles of Old Faithful, which remained opened to tourists.
The fire was burning west of the geyser, and it appeared winds would push the blaze north, Schreier said.
Nine other lightning fires spread across the park's boundaries, burning more than 50,000 acres. About 3,000 campers and park employees were evacuated over the weekend.
"This is an exceptionally dry year with erratic winds," Schreier said. "There hasn't been anything like this in my 30 years at the park."
The largest of the fires was the Clover Mist fire, which has destroyed 31,500 acres in a remote section on Yellowstone's eastern flank. In the park's remove southeast corner, the Mink Creek fire consumed at least 2,000 additional acres in the Teton Wilderness, growing to 24,400 acres.
Some of the more than 700 firefighters who have been battling the Teton Wilderness fire for two weeks were rotated out for two days and one night of rest.
The Boise Interagency Fire Center, the nation's firefighting headquarters in Idaho, said more hot weather, with dry lightning storms, was predicted this week for the West.
Fires were out of control in Montana, Idaho and Colorado.
At least nine different blazes scorched more than 20,000 acres of timber and grassland in Montana.
Officials reported no substantial change Monday night in Montana's largest fire, the Canyon Creek blaze burning the major portion of a 10,000-acre area in the Scapegoat Wilderness, about 60 miles northeast of Missoula.
Erratic winds and high temperatures caused another Montana fire in the Custer National Forest near the North Dakota border to double overnight to 1,050 acres. A 2,300-acre fire in the Gates Park area of the Bob Marshall Wilderness was burning north and west toward the Continental Divide.
Oregon firefighters made good progress on two major fires and began to battle a third blaze Monday that together had scorched more than 1,000 acres.
The 2,200-acre Poison Creek range fire in southcentral Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest was fully contained Monday night.
Near Canon City, Colo., a stubborn brush fire was burning over 2,000 acres. In Idaho, two fires claimed almost 5,000 acres of land.