(CLE ELUM, Wash.) — The long hot summer of 2012 has turned the West into a tinderbox. More than 60 fires are raging in at least 10 states.
Cle Elum, Wash., has not had a drop of rain for three weeks. Add to that scorching heat and high winds and the town is on the edge.
Rhonda Griffin spent the day putting out hotspots after a sleepless night watching the garage and the shop next to her house burn to the ground. Somehow, even though every bit of land around her burned, her home survived.
The fire moved with incredible speed, blowing up from hundreds to thousands of acres in just hours and nearly overrunning a sanctuary for rescued lab chimps.
“Crews were running,” said volunteer firefighter Gary Ackerson. “If you were caught in the wrong place you were getting in your rig and bugging out.”
The staff at the sanctuary said the chimps are scared, but now out of danger.
Tuesday afternoon, Tricia Roghair and her husband and father-in-law were asleep in the living room after a night of battling flames with garden hoses.
Bone dry conditions, extreme heat and even dry lightning have scorched dozens of miles across Utah, Oregon and Northern California this week as well. Firefighters battling the blazes are facing one of their deadliest years on record. Eleven firefighters have been killed in the line of duty so far this year.
Many of them are young seasonal workers like 20-year-old Anne Veseth, an energetic college student, who was killed in Idaho on Sunday by a falling tree.
A fire safety officer told ABC News that even though the work is dangerous, young firefighters are closely watched to make sure they don’t get into deadly trouble.
“Fire fighting is inherently dangerous,” said fire safety officer Steve Laramie. “We have many eyes looking around making sure everybody’s safe.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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