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Crews gaining on huge Nevada wildfire visible from space

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By SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) - More than 600 firefighters slowed the progress Tuesday of a massive wildfire in a remote part of northern Nevada that is generating so much heat and smoke that it's now visible from space.

A NASA satellite captured infrared imaging of the fire that has burned nearly 700 square miles (1,813 sq. kilometers) of mostly sage brush, grasses and rangeland - an area almost half the size of the state of Rhode Island, according to the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Dubbed the Martin Fire, the National Interagency Fire Center said Tuesday it was the largest wild land fire burning in the United States.

No injuries have been reported. No structures have been damaged or are currently threatened by a series of fires burning in northern Nevada in temperatures approaching triple digits on Tuesday, including one where evacuation orders were lifted after threatening 30 homes south of Carson City, authorities said.

Estimated containment of the fire burning within about 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the Idaho line remained at 35 percent, with full containment not anticipated for at least 10 days. But fire officials said they have made significant progress the last two days slowing the advance of flames, which had been traveling at an average rate of 15 miles per day in mostly a northeast direction since it started July 5 near the small rural town of Paradise Valley 200 miles (322 kilometers) northwest of Reno.

"Crews and equipment are making excellent progress building containment lines along the southeast flank of the fire," the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said.

Officials from the agency closed the Wilson reservoir and campground Tuesday because of fire activity in the area and aircraft that were scooping water from the reservoir to dump on the flames. Authorities investigating the cause of the fire asked for the public's help with any information about anyone who may have been camping in the area on the Fourth of July.

In western Nevada, all evacuation orders have been lifted and roads reopened near a fire that threatened as many as 30 homes on the Sierra's eastern front about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Carson City.

About 100 firefighters continued to battle the blaze that was burning mostly in sage brush Tuesday. It has charred an estimated 280 acres (113 hectares) and is 60 percent contained.

Steve Eisele, deputy chief of the East Fork Fire Protection District, said a piece of heavy equipment operating at a new housing development near Genoa apparently sparked the fire Monday afternoon and gusty winds quickly spread the frames into neighboring brush along Jacks Valley Road.

Authorities set up a temporary shelter at a senior center in nearby Gardnerville after a voluntary evacuation order was issued, but the shelter was shut down at about 9 p.m. Monday.

Elsewhere in the western U.S.:

- A wildfire burning near the Columbia River on Tuesday prompted officials to evacuate the tiny central Washington town of Vantage and to close Interstate 90 in both directions for a time. The fire broke out late Monday and forced about 120 people to leave their homes in Vantage, which is located just west of the river.

- A grass fire in northern Wyoming has consumed more than 56 square miles (145 square kilometers) and closed a section of one state highway. There are ranch homes in the area, but officials say no structures have been burned.

- A large wildfire that started over a month ago in southwestern Colorado is no longer considered a threat. A national firefighting team brought in to battle the 416 Fire north of Durango is leaving Tuesday, giving responsibility for monitoring it to San Juan National Forest officials.

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