4 missing climbers presumed dead after avalanche By NIGEL DUARA | Associated Press – 3 hrs ago An avalanche on Mount McKinley swept a Japanese climbing team off a hill as they tried to descend on a rope line, leaving four presumed dead. One climber survived after tumbling 60 feet into a crevasse.U.S. National Park Service officials say five people were traveling as one rope team early Thursday morning as part of a Miyagi Workers Alpine Federation expedition on the Alaska mountain.Park Service spokeswoman Maureen McLaughlin said Hitoshi Ogi, 69, survived the fall. He was able to climb out.The other four fell into the avalanche debris and haven’t been seen since. The climbers are presumed dead by either snow burial or injuries suffered in fallsSnowfall and wind have impeded a search for the missing climbers.Ogi spoke to Park Service employees after the event. He said the climbers were descending the mountain together when the avalanche began, McLaughlin said. They sped up, trying to get down the mountain faster, but the rope connecting them broke when the avalanche struck.Ogi was the lowest person on the rope team. He looked for the other four but couldn’t find them.”He wasn’t sure of all the events,” McLaughlin said, adding that Ogi spoke through a translator and was exhausted.The four missing climbers include 64-year-old Yoshiaki Kato, 50-year-old Masako Suda, 56-year-old Michiko Suzuki, and 63-year-old Tamao
Wildfire destroys most homes in Colo. History By THOMAS PEIPERT | Associated Press – 3 hrs ago
DENVER (AP) — Additional crews were arriving Saturday at a wildfire in northern Colorado that has scorched about 85 square miles and destroyed at least 181 homes, the most in state history.The High Park Fire burning 15 miles west of Fort Collins surpasses the Fourmile Canyon wildfire, which destroyed 169 homes west of Boulder in September 2010.Fire information officer Brett Haberstick said Saturday that more than 1,500 personnel are working on the Fort Collins-area fire. The lightning-caused blaze, which is believed to have killed a 62-year-old woman whose body was found in her cabin, was 20 percent contained. The fire’s incident commander said full containment could be two to four weeks away.Haberstick said hot and dry conditions were expected to continue, but crews have made progress in containing a 200-acre spot fire that erupted Thursday afternoon north of the Cache La Poudre River, a critical line of defense against northward growth.”We’re hopeful that we will be able to contain it today, but that will be determined by Mother Nature,” Haberstick said.Firefighters have extinguished other incursions north of the river, but the most recent one appeared to be more serious.National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Fredin said some rain was expected in the fire zone Saturday evening, but it will not be enough to put the fire out.”We need a rain that will really last all day,” he said. „But it’s better than dry wind at this point.”The fire was reported June 9 and has since raced through large swaths of private and U.S. Forest Service land.Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, met with fire managers in Fort Collins on Saturday and said „fighting this fire is going to require us to be aggressive, persistent and also patient.”We’re going to continue to work to make our forests more resilient. We’re going to continue to ensure that adequate resources are provided for fighting fires and we are going to continue to make sure that we encourage appropriate stewardship of our forests,” he said.Vilsack praised Congress for allowing the government to contract additional aircraft — particularly heavy tankers — to fight wildfires across the West. But he called on lawmakers for budget certainty to help plan for future fires.Vilsack is scheduled to hold a news conference with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in Albuquerque on Sunday.Meanwhile in New Mexico, questions were being raised about whether bureaucratic red tape prevented firefighters from saving more homes affected by the Little Bear Fire after federal officials released transcripts of the firefighters’ response.Congressman Steve Pearce said Friday in an interview with KOB-TV (http://bit.ly/Mga1yx ) that he believed federal officials could have done more after lightning sparked the fire outside the resort town of Ruidoso on June 4. Days later, high winds sent embers more than a mile from the blaze’s end, causing the inferno to grow.But officials released transcripts of the response on the Lincoln National Forest website that suggested firefighters were attacking the blaze as soon as it was a quarter of an acre.The fire has destroyed 224 homes and burned 59 square miles.In Arizona, the Northern Arizona Incident Management Team took command of the 1,500 acre blaze in the Tonto National Forest. Officials said the fire was 15 percent contained and firefighters continued to battle unseasonably dry fuels, high temperatures and low humidity._Associated Press writer Russell Contreras in Albuquerque contributed to this report.
Colorado wildfire ranks as most destructive in state history By Keith Coffman | Reuters – 2 hrs 32 mins ago DENVER (Reuters) – An 85-square-mile (220-square-km) wildfire raging out of control for a week in northern Colorado has destroyed 181 homes, ranking it as the most destructive blaze in state history, fire officials said on Saturday.The so-called High Park Fire, ignited by lightning in steep mountain terrain 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins, and about 65 miles northwest of Denver, has already been blamed for one death, and the toll of property damage is expected to climb.”The number of structures lost will be much larger,” said Nick Christensen, spokesman for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.There are more than 700 dwellings within the overall fire zone, Christensen said, and firefighters have managed to save most of them.Hundreds of residents displaced by the fire remain out of their homes, but authorities have slowly been reopening certain neighborhoods deemed safe by assessment crews.”It’s a painstaking process,” Christensen said.Before Saturday, fire officials had put the estimated property losses from the blaze at roughly 100 structures, including an undetermined number of homes.The new tally of 181 homes destroyed by the blaze since it erupted last Saturday surpasses the 169 total from a 2010 fire above Boulder. With 54,232 acres charred so far, the High Park is the third-largest wildfire on record in Colorado.The lone casualty reported from the fire was a 62-year-old grandmother whose remains were found in the ashes of the cabin where she lived alone. She became the fourth fatality in a Colorado wildfire this year.In addition to the difficult terrain, extreme heat and at times erratic winds, firefighters have encountered prowling black bears flushed out by smoke and flames, fire spokesman Brett Haberstick said, adding that crews were told to give the bears a wide berth.The 1,600 firefighters battling the flames from the ground and air had a relatively good day on Saturday because of cooler temperatures and higher humidity values, said incident commander Bill Hahnenberg.But weather forecasts calling for hotter temperatures and higher winds over the next several days will present further challenges, he said.FULL CONTAINMENT WEEKS AWAY Flames from a 200-acre (80-hectare) spot fire jumped a natural firebreak at the Cache la Poudre River on Thursday night, but crews deployed to the area made a stand and prevented the flames from roaring through a canyon into a 1,000-home subdivision, Hahnenberg said.Crews have cut containment lines around 20 percent of the High Park Fire’s perimeter, mostly along the more heavily populated eastern flanks of the blaze, he said.Full containment of the fire is still weeks away, Hahnenberg said, and the fire is not expected to be extinguished until the autumn when snows return to the high country.U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department includes the U.S. Forest Service, toured the fire zone on Saturday with Governor John Hickenlooper and members of the state’s congressional delegation.The High Park fire has burned a combination of private lands and portions of the Roosevelt National Forest.Vilsack said federal authorities were looking to confront forest management issues posed by the 2012 fire season, particularly in the mountain West where vast stands of beetle-killed timber has helped fuel many wildfires, and the potential for flash flooding from mountainsides denuded by fire.(Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)