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Western wildfires finally lose ground

  GALLERY
A cheatgrass fire in Nevada moves as fast as the wind will carry it -- making it difficult to control

 

In this story:

'They need the money now'

Cooler weather helps firefighters


RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow


HELENA, Montana (CNN) - Firefighters faced a smaller battlefield Sunday as the number of acres ablaze across the West declined slightly.

Even so, federal officials have promised to cut through red tape and get immediate financial relief for fire-ravaged Montana -- one of the worst-hit states.

On Sunday, the National Fire Information Center reported 76 large fires burning across 868,975 acres -- 54,560 acres less than a day earlier. Although firefighters were contending Sunday with seven additional fires, they took satisfaction in their accomplishment.

 VIDEO
CNN's Don Knapp reports that improved weather conditions promise to help in the battle against Western wildfires

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(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

CNN National Correspondent Mike Boettcher takes a close look at the fight against one wildfire

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  GALLERY
Click here for images of the wildfires

 
 WEATHER FORECASTS
Montana
  • Helena
  • Missoula
  • Butte
  • Hamilton
 
  AUDIO
TEST Listen to residents of Pinesdale, Montana

 
  RESOURCES
 
  MESSAGE BOARD
 

"We are making progress," said Ed Waldapfel, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Wildfires are burning in 13 states: Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California.

'They need the money now'

Residents affected by the fire got a boost Saturday when James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), toured burned areas in Montana. He vowed to local and state officials that he would expedite efforts to get federal funds to the state.

"They need the money now, and that's what we're going to do," Witt told CNN.

To estimate the costs of the ongoing firefighting effort, officials from the emergency management agency will hold a conference call Monday with state officials and those from federal park and forestry agencies, said Matthew Furman, a spokesman for the emergency management agency, during an interview with CNN.

Once the estimated cost is determined, Furman said a check will be issued within days for 50 percent of the figure; this will eliminate the need for a special session of the state legislature. In Montana alone, costs on the state, local and federal levels have surpassed $64 million.

In the 13 states now battling large fires, the costs are estimated at $15 million per day, noted Waldapfel of the National Interagency Fire Center.

"We just need to make sure that we can try to protect homes, and take care of families that have been affected," said Witt. "These people out here have gone through an awful ordeal."

Cooler weather helps firefighters

Meanwhile, cooler weather in Montana has allowed firefighters to make progress on two fires burning 12 to 15 miles south of Helena. Larry Akers of the Montana Division of Disaster and Emergency Services said a mandatory evacuation order had been lifted covering some 270 residents. Akers noted the evacuations had been ordered eight to 10 days ago.

An additional 500 soldiers from the 20th Engineer Battalion, First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, have completed their initial training and will begin training on the fire lines Sunday in Montana.

South Dakota was added to the list of states battling wildfires. A 1,500 acre fire was burning on the rugged terrain of Flag Pole Mountain, near the city of Hot Springs in the state's southwestern corner.



RELATED STORIES:
Firefighter killed, another injured as U.S. forests continue to burn
August 12, 2000
Wildfires spur more Montana evacuations
August 11, 2000
Army sending more troops to Western wildfire zone
August 10, 2000
Now 70 large wildfires in West
August 9, 2000
Exhausted firefighters return to battle after presidential praise
August 8, 2000
More Army troops called to fight Western wildfires
August 7, 2000
Wildfire smoke triggers health alert, may force new evacuations
August 6, 2000

RELATED SITES:
National Interagency Fire Center
National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Protection Program
National Association of State Foresters
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Firehouse.Com
Idaho
Large Wildland Fires
Access Idaho - The Official Website of the State of Idaho
State of Montana
Fire Information
U.S. Forest Service

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