U.S. firefighters battling one of largest blazes ever

Fire crews in the western U.S. are fighting to encircle a 49,000-acre (20,000-hectare) wildfire, one of the largest in the country.

The fire in Washington state has destroyed more than 100 homes and more than 100 outbuildings near the city of Pomeroy. It was second in size only to an 82,000-acre (33,000-hectare) blaze in Alaska.

"We have two miles (three kilometers) of line left to build but those are a couple of rugged miles," said spokesman Julian Rhinehart.

A break in the weather could come Wednesday, when a low-pressure system is expected to bring rain, though lightning was also possible, he said.

Full containment was predicted by Thursday, but it is likely to continue smoldering inside the fire lines for some time.

In Montana, another western state, crews fighting an 11,000-acre (4,500-hectare) blaze near the city of Alberton were helped by cool, moist weather. That fire, which began as two blazes was 70 percent contained Monday, with full containment possible by Thursday.

Authorities said they were going to interview a man who was seen stopped along a nearby highway at the time the fire started, possibly with vehicle problems. Officials believe the blazes were sparked by a malfunctioning vehicle or arson.

Forest Service spokeswoman Paula Nelson said the man was not considered a suspect, the AP reported.

The National Interagency Fire Center said 28 large fires totaling 290,000 acres (11,700 hectares) were active Monday in 10 western states. So far this year, wildfires have charred 5.89 million acres (2.38 million hectares) nationwide, compared with 5.95 million acres (2.4 million hectares) at the same time last year.

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