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WINDS MAY COMBINE 2 IDAHO FIRES

SHARE WINDS MAY COMBINE 2 IDAHO FIRES

High, erratic winds pushed two massive wildfires within four miles of each other, raising fears that they would combine in a single blaze that could burn until fall.

Fire experts predicted that a combined fire would burn as much as 425,000 acres - about half the size of Rhode Island."It doesn't get worse than this," said Vern Schmidt, fire information officer for the Payette National Forest.

In central California, a fire raged across 22,000 acres, destroying a house and two other buildings and chasing hundreds from their homes. Eight injuries, mostly minor, were reported.

Working in heat that reached 108 degrees, fire crews attacked flames that threatened lives or property while letting other stretches burn themselves out.

"It's completely out of control," California Department of Forestry fire Capt. Bob Bergstrom said late Monday night. "All we're doing . . . is to make a stand, and where we can't we just get out of the way.

"You could have everything (in fire equipment) west of the Mississippi and you can't stop it."

Twenty-three major fires have burned more than 304,500 acres in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, according to the the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. They were being fought by nearly 19,000 firefighters.

In Idaho Tuesday, the 49,000-acre Corral Fire remained about six miles west of Burgdorf Hot Springs and the 28,000-acre Blackwell Complex fire was seven miles southwest of Secesh Meadows. About 50 people have fled the neighboring vacation communities about 130 miles north of Boise.

Most people left along a key escape route to McCall, about 25 miles to the southwest, with flames within a mile or two on either side. Others from Secesh Meadows moved east across a ridge to the town of Warren. If the fire eventually follows them across that ridge, their only exit would be along a rugged, off-road trail.