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Fire season among the worst in decades

FEATHERVILLE, Idaho -- Across the West, dozens of fires fueled by searing heat, dry weather and strong winds have added up to misery for weary residents fed up with one of the worst fire seasons in decades.

On Wednesday, hundreds of residents of two towns, Featherville and Pine, were packing their belongings and clearing out of the way of a massive fire in a gulch a few miles away expected to hit town this week.

A series of wildfires also has started or intensified in recent days in Washington, northern California and Nevada.

Not only are more of the nation's wildfires occurring in the West this year than last, but the fires have gotten bigger, said Jennifer Smith of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. As of Wednesday, 42,933 wildfires have been reported in the nation this season, burning 6.4 million acres. The 10-year average for this period is 52,535 fires, but covering only 5 million acres, she said.

"Nevada has been hammered, and Idaho has some big ones that are going to burn until the snow falls," Smith said.

Idaho's Trinity Ridge Fire has burned more than 100 square miles in two weeks. "It's not a question of if, but when," Boise National Forest spokesman Dave Olson said of the fire reaching the outskirts of Featherville.

Fire crews are battling nine big fires in Idaho, including one in the Salmon-Challis National Forest that stranded 250 rafters on the Salmon River.

Nevada has 11 big fires burning and California has 13, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

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