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Washington Wildfires Continue To Burn

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(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

SEATTLE  (CBS Seattle/AP) — Firefighters east of Washington’s Cascade Range are still working to contain dozens of wildfires sparked by a weekend lightning storm. While diminishing winds late Monday aided the firefighters efforts, the National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings for wide swaths of eastern Washington due to high winds.

Rain that fell in the Seattle area after a 48-day dry stretch didn’t make it over the Cascade Mountains that divide the state’s western and eastern halves.

In Wenatchee, about 140 miles east of Seattle, the self-appointed “Apple Capital of the World” had many residents worried about their homes. About 180 homes were evacuated Sunday. Some residents were allowed to return, while others were told to leave Monday. Crews arrived from across the state to help fight several fires in the region.

Only a shed has been lost near Wenatchee, and no injuries have been reported at what appeared to be the most-threatening of the wildfires.

Blazes have scorched more than 8.1 million acres across the West so far in 2012, up from the 10-year average of 6.1 million, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Mild fire seasons combined with moderate winter weather recently contributed to a buildup of undergrowth that fuels fires, said Jeremy Sullens, a wildfire analyst for predictive services at the center. The dry summer exacerbated things.

Fire officials would like to have a wet fall, but that’s not in the forecast so far.

Fires that apparently started over the weekend burned more than 23 square miles of sagebrush and grass, and threatened homes near Grand Coulee Dam in Douglas and Grant counties. Another fire 17 miles southwest of Creston in Lincoln County burned across 28 square miles.

As many as 80 fires along the east slopes of the Cascades were set by lightning Saturday, the state Department of Natural Resources said. Most remained small.

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