Two northern California brush fires have scorched 14,000 acres, destroying 24 structures and forcing at least 350 people to flee, but frosty weather in Montana and Wyoming has helped ease blazes there.
About 100 homes were threatened by the wind-fanned fires that began late Saturday 15 miles west of Vacaville and 20 miles east of Redding. The Vacaville fire was started by arson, and caused more than $7 million in damage to telecommunications equipment, officials said.In Wyoming, a cold front Sunday brought up to 3 inches of snow to the fire-charred Yellowstone National Park.
"I would be surprised if the fires made any more major runs," said fire specialist Bruce Freet. But officials weren't ready to predict the end of the blazes that have involved about half of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres.
Meanwhile, some soldiers who fought Yellowstone fires were upset at the disparity between Army pay and that for civilian firefighters. Base pay for a private is $671 per month, but some civilian firefighters were making as much as $3,700 per month, said 1st Lt. Bob Brewer, spokesman for the 9th Infantry Division.
"There's a lot of screaming about pay," Brewer said.
In Montana, the winter weather quieted the two remaining major forest fires and prompted the release of most of the firefighters and soldiers who helped battle the blazes. The firefighters on the lines focused on the 35,400-acre fire in Glacier National Park and the smouldering 247,000-acre fire in west-central Montana.
In California, some 1,500 firefighters were dispatched to fight the out-of-control blazes near Vacaville, 55 miles northeast of San Francisco, and near Redding, about 250 miles northeast of the San Francisco Bay area.
Nine homes and three outbuildings burned to the ground in the 10,000-acre fire near Vacaville on Sunday, while 12 buildings, including six homes, were destroyed by a 4,200-acre blaze near Redding. Fire officials gave no estimate of damage.
Evacuees began returning home Sunday night as dying winds helped firefighters. Lines had been built around 70 percent of the blaze Monday morning, California Department of Forestry spokesman John Teie said.
Up to 285 people from communities in eastern Shasta County were evacuated as firefighters battled the Redding blaze, which was fueled by dry timber and 45 mph gusts, said Evelyn Dollarhide, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Forestry.
More than 800 firefighters fought the blaze, which began about midnight Saturday, officials said.
"It's really awful to walk up and see your place burn," said Andrew Scott, who spent the night with about 100 others at a Red Cross evacuation center near Redding. His home was destroyed by rapidly moving flames early Sunday.