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Posted June 28, 2006 EST

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32 Large Fires Burning In 8 Western States
More than 1,000 firefighters fought lightning-sparked blazes that had burned more than 80,000 acres across northern Nevada by Tuesday, putting just about every available piece of equipment and firefighter on the lines. The fires were among 32 large ones burning in eight western states, according to the National Fire Information Center in Boise, Idaho.

No injuries were reported in any fires Tuesday, and no buildings burned.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn declared a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon. The declaration will help local governments get federal assistance to restore firefighting resources, he said.

As many as 300 homes and businesses east of Carson City were threatened by a pair of brush fires that expanded overnight to 6,000 acres. The flames curved around the state's capital city.

Despite the continued threats, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel remained open.

"The girls were back by 2 this morning," said a bartender who gave only the name of Wendy. "We're back in business, and we've got business."

The fires scorched part of the training grounds at the state fire academy and forced officials to close two major highways.

"We're stretched about as thin as possible. Thankfully our neighbors from around Nevada and across the country are giving us a hand," said Jeff Arnberger, an assistant fire management officer with the Bureau of Land Management in Elko, where the largest fires burned.

In Arizona, authorities escorted hundreds of tourist around the fire that had marooned them since the weekend at the lodge, cabins and campgrounds on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The wildfire had jumped the only highway leading to the area, but the flames were about 30 miles from the park and officials said no one was in any danger.

About 150 cars had been led out of the park by Tuesday afternoon, said park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. About 800 visitors had been stranded when the fire forced officials to close the highway to the park.

The fire, which has covered about 50,000 acres, was 5 percent contained Tuesday afternoon.

Nevada officials earlier ordered evacuations in two rural communities near Elko and flames burned within a quarter-mile of homes 15 miles northwest of Reno, but no homes faced immediate danger. Some residents also voluntarily left rural valleys on the northern outskirts of Reno, where some of the lightning fires that began Monday had covered an estimated 3,000 acres.

Nevada's biggest fire had grown to 57,000 acres about 20 miles west of Elko near Carlin, where the University of Nevada Fire Science Academy is located along I-80.

"We do a lot of real-life fire training, but we never expected this," said Denise Baclawski, the academy's executive director. "All night long we had staff members work to protect the facility."

Northwest of Reno, a 1,500-acre wildfire in the Sierra just across the Nevada-California line was estimated to be 50 percent contained early Tuesday.

Near Sedona, Ariz., fire officials predicted that the 4,200-acre fire that forced hundreds to evacuate Oak Creek Canyon would be contained Wednesday. Owners of the roughly 400 homes and scattered businesses still evacuated were expected be allowed to return Tuesday night.

More than half of the nearly 800 people assigned to the fire were expected to be released by the end of the day, incident commander Paul Broyles said Tuesday. He said crews had been able to corral the blaze because it was the No. 1 priority in the nation, every available resource was poured into the battle and the weather cooperated.

Elsewhere, a 3,200-acre blaze a mile west of the northern New Mexico town of Gallina calmed and evacuees from 120 homes in three subdivisions were allowed to return Monday.

As of Monday, wildfires around the United States had blackened 3.3 million acres this year, compared with 1.2 million acres on average at this point in the fire season, the National Interagency Fire Center reported. However, much of this year's acreage resulted from huge grass fires in Texas and Oklahoma this spring, not from forest fires.

Written by Associated Press

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