Firefighters gain upper hand on fires

DENVER - Firefighters have contained blazes from California to Colorado, and authorities on Tuesday said they've benefitted from good weather.

''We have had some moisture, the humidity is higher and temperatures have been lower so we are catching a break. There is no ignitions source,'' said Dave Steinke, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman in Denver.

A fire near Rocky Mountain National Park northwest of Denver was contained Monday night after burning 10,600 acres and 22 structures. Containment was expected Tuesday night for another blaze 35 miles southwest of Denver, which burned 10,500 acres and 58 structures, including 51 homes.

Rain drenched two lightning-caused fires in Saguaro National Park in Arizona and also helped firefighters contain a blaze in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico.

The fire season across the country is already the worst since 1996, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. More than 46,000 fires have burned 1.26 million acres.

Mike Apicello, spokesman for the National Interagency Firefighting Force, said the latest weather forecasts call for the monsoons to start more or less on time in the Southwest next month. Rehabilitation crews have a good chance of completing anti-erosion work before the rains start, he said.

The Pacific Northwest has been cool and wet enough to permit some prescribed burns, banned in several states after the disaster in Los Alamos, N.M., when a prescribed burn got out of control and scorched more than 200 homes and caused more than $600 million in damage.

Smoke jumpers are completing their training, and Apicello said 69 of the nation's 71 elite hotshot firefighting teams are fully staffed and ready to go, ''so we'll be fully staffed and ready for any new fires.''

On the Net:

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Jefferson County Sheriff's Office:


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