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Washington fire wrecks 70 homes

Much of western U.S. a hot, dry tinderbox

The extreme fire conditions across the U.S. West have exploded, with several burning across the region Wednesday and about 70 homes destroyed in Washington state.

The blazes, fuelled by searing heat, dry weather and strong winds, added up to misery for weary residents facing one of the region's worst fire seasons in decades.

Not only are more wildfires occurring in the western U.S. 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 had been reported in the U.S., covering 2.6 million hectares.

In recent days, one firefighter died in Idaho after being struck by a falling tree. Another suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation after a blaze along the Nevada-Oregon border forced her to crawl into an emergency fire shelter.

In a rural part of Washington state, Wednesday's calmer winds gave firefighters hope of containing a blaze that has forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

In addition to 70 homes, hundreds of outbuildings had burned, officials said. Eight hundred firefighters were battling the Taylor Bridge fire, which has scorched 11,331 hectares.

The fire broke out Monday at a bridge construction site.

In Southern California, wildfires continue to threaten dozens of homes after burning through more than 49 square kilometres of brush in the midst of a brutal heat wave.

A blaze in foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County is 15 about per cent contained, state fire officials said Wednesday. The fast-moving blaze, which has burned four structures, was threatening 47 homes.