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Residents of a rural canyon were barred from returning to inspect the damage to burned-out homes Saturday as a stubborn forest fire swelled to 7,000 acres.

Flames weren't the only danger."The smoke is going to kill you before the fire does," Dina Mattell said Saturday. She had taken refuge in a Red Cross shelter in Gold Hill.

Across the West, 24 major fires still burning Saturday had covered 391,000 acres in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and Montana, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

The Hull Mountain fire in southwestern Oregon destroyed five houses and nine outbuildings at the top of Ramsey Canyon late Friday, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Chris Friend. Another house had been burned earlier.

On Friday, residents of the 20 homes in Ramsey Canyon left in a caravan of cars and pickups, joined by fire trucks as flames threatened the area.

Firefighters estimated that the blaze about 15 miles northwest of Medford would be contained late Monday, but Incident Commander Mike Templeton said that was likely to be pushed back as the fire continued to grow by about 1,500 acres a day.

A firefighter was killed Thursday when the blaze engulfed his bulldozer. Authorities said the death was being investigated as a homicide because the fire might be a case of arson.


-Firefighters in California' Sierra Nevada reported progress in battling a fire that had burned 4,200 acres near Big Creek. It was 50 percent contained Saturday and lower temperatures and higher humidity were expected to help in the firefighting effort.

-The U.S. Forest Service spent Saturday clearing campers out of one-third of central Idaho's Sawtooth wilderness because of the 72,000-acre Rabbit Creek Fire.

-Dozens of fires were burning in northwestern Montana. At the Libby complex of fires covering 10,790 acres, crews contained the edge that had been moving toward the town of Libby, said fire information officials in Missoula.

-In central Washington, no containment date had been set for the 43,315-acre Hatchery Complex of fires near Leavenworth.