Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:18
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Alaska blaze destroys dozens of homes

ANCHORAGE (AP) — An enormous forest fire started by tool sparks has destroyed dozens of homes and cabins on the scenic Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

The blaze had blackened about 78 square miles, or 50,000 acres, as of Saturday, forestry officials said.

It may have been slowed by light showers Saturday, but not by much, fire information officer Mary Huels said.

The fire had destroyed 30 residences and seasonal cabins and 40 other buildings, according to the state Division of Forestry. Another 600 homes and cabins were threatened and an evacuation order was in effect for the area. Officials did not know how many people had left their homes because many of the structures are only used seasonally.

The fire was started Tuesday by sparks falling onto dry grass from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel, officials said.

Some 250 firefighters were at work on the blaze and more crews were being brought in from the Lower 48 states.

The picturesque peninsula, where tourists flock to take whale and glacier cruises and anglers cast for salmon alongside bears, sits between Anchorage and the Gulf of Alaska.

Elsewhere, six buildings — vacations homes and commercial property — were threatened by a fire in the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana. It had charred 1,000 acres of heavy timber as of Saturday, fire spokeswoman Erin Fryer said.

None of the fire had been contained, Fryer said.

Near Reno, firefighters reported progress in their battle against a 150-acre wildfire that had burned within 200 yards of upscale homes Saturday, said Reno city spokesman Chris Good. He said crews hoped to contain the brush fire Sunday.

(Original Len: 2070 Condensed Len: 2148)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:18