BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Recent rains across much of the West have brightened the outlook for the current wildfire season, an improvement over previous forecasts that predicted another catastrophic year like 2003, a top federal official said Wednesday.

“All in all, it’s not going to be as severe as 2003,” Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke said after a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center and meetings with firefighters. “I think we’re going to be able to get through this season just fine.”

Over 4.8 million acres have burned so far this year; 4.5 million acres were in Alaska, where the state’s second-worst fire season on record has commanded the vast majority of the nation’s firefighting resources. Clarke said rain was expected there this week.

Fire potential was still significant in California, Washington and along the Sierra Nevada range, Clarke said. Still, she said, “The lower 48, I think, is well prepared for the next month or two.”

Over 4.9 million acres burned nationally last year – 600,000 in Alaska, according to fire center statistics.

Nearly 4,000 firefighters and their equipment remained committed to the 15 major active fires still burning Wednesday.

A hot spot involved a blaze that had blackened 290 acres on steep mountain slopes about 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas and prompted fire crews to call for reinforcements Wednesday to battle the fire. Authorities initially estimated that 1,500 acres had burned, but sharply lowered the estimate Wednesday.

The fire, started Monday by a truck crash in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, was 40 percent contained.

No structures were threatened and no new evacuations were ordered.

“We’ve asked for some additional resources, including air support, and it could be arriving today,” said Robbie McAboy, a spokeswoman for the firefighters.

Also in Nevada, a fire started by teenagers playing with fireworks destroyed four homes in Reno, but firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze and no one was hurt.



On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

Bureau of Land Management: http://www.blm.gov

AP-ES-07-28-04 1945EDT



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