SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Hundreds of Wyoming residents were forced to flee a wind-driven wildfire that destroyed at least 10 homes even as a separate blaze in neighboring Idaho burned several cabins to the ground and prompted dozens to evacuate, fire managers said on Monday (Oct 12).
The fire that broke out on Saturday evening in a brush pile at a landfill north of Wyoming's second largest city of Casper has charred 4,000ha of grasslands and trees and led to the evacuation of more than 300 residents, said Mr Bob Fawcett, fire marshal with the Natrona County Fire Protection District.
At least 10 houses and an unknown number of outbuildings have been lost to a blaze fed by winds that gusted up to 95 kmh over the weekend amid bone-dry conditions, he said.
That fire and a blaze in southwest Idaho that has destroyed three cabins and forced about 80 people from their homes since igniting last Saturday near the small mountain town of Idaho City have come at a time the fire season in the Northern Rockies is usually drawing to a close, officials said. "We're not used to seeing a threat this severe so late in the season," said Mr Fawcett.
Drought and unusually warm temperatures that have persisted in much of the region have been cited by US fire managers as key factors in a 2015 fire season in the US West that brought the most destructive blaze in California history and the largest on record in Washington state.
Climate changes affecting Western states in recent years have caused the fire season to start earlier and last longer, fire managers have said.
Wildfires have consumed more than 3.7 million ha across the United States so far this year, compared to the 10-year average of nearly 2.6 million ha, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.
Wyoming fire officials estimated containment of the blaze outside Casper at 50 per cent on Monday amid predictions of high winds.
That fire and the one in Idaho, which has blackened an estimated 1,000ha in the south-west part of the state, are believed to have been caused by humans but investigations are ongoing, the authorities said.