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Crews battle wildfires in Washington, California

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Sat Jul 12, 4:23 AM UTC

ENTIAT, Wash. (AP) — Several hundred firefighters worked Friday to contain a fire that has burned grass and brush across nearly 32 square miles in central Washington.

The blaze threatened more than 200 homes and damaged a few outbuildings in Chelan County near Entiat, roughly midway between Seattle and Spokane.

Residents of several dozen homes have been told to evacuate, fire operations spokeswoman Laurie Dowie said. The fire was partially contained by Friday evening. Also, a stretch of highway near the blaze reopened after a temporary closure because of firefighting work in the area.

Worried that hot, dry conditions would increase fire dangers, state officials extended an outdoor burn ban to include all 13 million acres of lands that the state protects.

Meanwhile, firefighters aggressively attacked a California wildfire that was spreading fast after starting Friday afternoon in a remote part of the Sequoia National Forest.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Cindy Thill said that the fire started around 2 p.m. and within a couple of hours had burned more than one square mile of the Kiavah Wilderness area. The blaze burned through shrubs and in some places skipped across the treetops, she said.

No homes or giant Sequoia trees were in danger from the fire, but air crews were hitting the flames with tankers and helicopters while hundreds of firefighters head to the scene. The Sequoia National Forest, where the fire started, is south of and geographically separate from the Sequoia National Park east of Fresno, which is home to giant Sequoia trees.

A blaze burning near Spokane was held at less than 2 square miles and was partially contained, spokesman Chuck Turley said Friday afternoon.

Firefighters working the blaze near Ford in Stevens County hope it doesn't flare up in the hot, dry conditions forecast for the weekend, Turley said.

"As heat hit this area, some of the areas will have a tendency to rekindle," Turley said.

The Lake Spokane campground will be closed at least through the weekend, he said. Officials are urging people to be vigilant as hot and dry conditions increase fire risks throughout the state.

A burn ban, which has already been in effect in Eastern Washington, now includes Western Washington. The ban is in effect through Sept. 30.

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