While Americans celebrate the Labor Day holiday weekend, about 25,000 people continued to work at the exhausting task of battling wildfires in the Western United States. Idaho farmers lent irrigation machinery to sprinkle blazes near Yellowstone National Park.
Fires in and around Yellowstone National Park continued to pose the most problems Saturday, said Don Jackson of the Boise Interagency Fire Center. About 9,000 people were on the fire lines, more than 4,000 in the park itself.With the exception of two or three "hot spots," the fire situation appeared to be stable over the weekend, but hot and windy weather, predicted for next week, was expected to cause new problems, particularly in Montana and Idaho.
Firefighters in Oregon, meanwhile, managed to get the upper hand on the largest fire in the state this year, a 49,700-acre blaze. Fire danger remained great, however, and the state closed more than 3 million acres of public lands.
"This is the last major holiday weekend of the summer, and we know people will be out there," said Ron DeHart of the fire command center in Portland. "We would frankly rather have people go to the beach."
Temperatures remained in the 100-degree range in much of the Pacific Northwest.
Most of the activity in 2.2 million-acre Yellowstone National Park, where fires have charred one-fifth the land area, was centered near the town of West Yellowstone, where the North Fork fire threatened one mile to the north and east.
Farmers used irrigation equipment to keep the blaze from engulfing West Yellowstone, a gateway community that borders the park's west entrance.
"A bunch of farmers from southeast Idaho brought in their irrigation gear and are watering the lines east of town," Jackson said. "They're pouring water on the (bulldozer) lines, and they're actually sprinkling the fire."
Volunteers from the local LDS Church installed the sprinkler system about half a mile deep into the woods Friday night. The sprinkler is constantly wetting down the area separating the town from the fire.
The other side of the North Fork fire will almost inevitably burn through the Old Faithful area, probably sometime in the coming week, a fire spokesman said.
However, Forest Service officials are confident they can protect all the structures at the Old Faithful complex.
The Old Faithful complex - the most popular area of the park - includes the historic Old Faithful Inn, several stores and lodging facilities, and a large housing area.