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Enormous California wildfire threatens desert homes near LA

Twenty-six people have been killed. Officials were investigating the death of a firefighter at another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.

The death occurred Sept. 17 in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement. That blaze is 59% contained.

The firefighter was identified Monday night as Charles Morton, 39, who was a squad boss with the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew of the San Bernardino National Forest. He had worked with the U.S. Forest Service for 14 years.

“Charlie was a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.

“Charlie is survived by his wife and daughter, his parents, two brothers, cousins, and friends. He’s loved and will be missed. May he rest easy in heaven with his baby boy,” Morton’s family said in a statement.

In Wyoming, officials warned that gusty winds on Monday could cause more growth of a wildfire burning toward cabins and an important water supply reservoir that’s a major source of water for the state’s capital city, Cheyenne. The fire in the Medicine Bow National Forest is burning in heavily forested, rugged terrain which would usually would be busy now with hunters at the start of elk hunting season.

And in Colorado, more evacuations were ordered on Sunday as winds caused the state’s largest wildfire to grow. Firefighters had to temporarily retreat from the massive Cameron Peak Fire near Red Feather Lakes. Flames later spread into flatter ground which gave crews a better chance to battle the blaze, fire managers said.

More than 9,000 firefighters continue to battle 27 large wildfires across Oregon and Washington, where thousands of residences have been destroyed, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service said.

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