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NEW MEADOWS, Idaho -- A major wildfire sparked by lightning in the Payette National Forest Sunday has grown significantly in the last 24 hours.

The Wesley Fire has grown from 150 acres to more than 2,500 acres since it started early Sunday morning. Sunday's storm also started a smaller, nearby fire called the Aspen Fire. That fire eventually merged with the Wesley Fire.

Fire information officer LaDawn Saxton says a lightning strike started the Wesley Fire near the Lick Creek lookout area northwest of New Meadows.

Saxton said gusting winds of up to 35 mph spread embers from the fire throughout the day, accelerating its growth.

The fire is now visible for miles from Council, New Meadows, and McCall. Fire closure areas include the nearby Rapid River drainage, along with areas near Smokey Boulder Road. Several hunting camps, along with 60 to 70 hunters have also been evacuated from the area.

Saxton said firefighters' current strategy is drive the fire into the Rapid River drainage, and prevent it from moving east into the populated Round Valley area where there are some homes.

At this time, we're not thinking they're threatened, Saxton said.

Several helicopters and airplanes will continue to use fire retardant and conduct water drops throughout the day to gain the upper hand on the flames. Smoke jumpers and other fire fighting personnel are also on the job.

For more information,check the InciWeb Wesley Fire homepage.

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