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End Near in Stanislaus Forest; Fire Linked to ‘Religious Event’ Snuffed Out

September 21, 1987

SONORA, Calif. (AP) _ Firefighters today closed in on a blaze that has charred 219 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest, while in Washington a 300-acre forest fire linked to a ″religious event″ was snuffed out.

In remote southwestern Oregon, fires that charred nearly 41,000 acres were 70 percent contained Sunday, officials said.

In Arizona, seven lightning-caused fires and one arson blaze in a 60-mile arc across the Tonto National Forest north and east of Phoenix were contained or controlled Sunday, Forest Service officials said.

U.S. Forest Service officials in California said they should be able to tell whether the 140,095-acre Stanislaus blaze will be controlled within the next day or so, following a brief helicopter tour today of its southern boundaries.

″It’s been a long, tough siege,″ said Blaine Cornell, supervisor of the 898,343-acre forest, who predicted most of the remaining 350 firefighters will be needed for several weeks for mop-up work.

Northward, a lingering inversion layer helped firefighters who remained on the scenes Sunday of forest fires still raging throughout California’s Klamath and Shasta-Trinity national forests, officials said.

The inversion that traps smoke and fog near the ground ″keeps everything kind of cool,″ said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kay McQuaid.

In Klamath, spokewoman Pat Irwin said the acreage scored by fires climbed slightly from the 174,000 reported on Saturday to 180,000 acres on Sunday.

The increase was due primarily to firefighters’ ″burnout operations,″ she said.

The number of acres burned as of Sunday in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest totaled 85,800 acres and approximately 2,500 people remained in the firefighting crews, she said.

Altogether, the series of blazes that have roared through California’s pristine national forests since Aug. 28 have destroyed more than 600,000 acres. They were started by 12,000 lightning strikes.

In southern Oregon the same inversion layer, which was trapping fog and smoke near the ground, was a mixed blessing for firefighters. While it slowed the spread of flames, it also prevented aircraft from assisting and made breathing difficult, officials said.

The fires in the Siskiyou National Forest, the only ones still out of control in the state, were sparked by lightning three weeks ago. They burned unchecked until fires closer to towns in other areas of the West were brought under control.

A total of 1,027 firefighters were on the scene Sunday, Doug Salyer, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Sunday.

Meanwhile, a series of fires in the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon was declared contained Saturday at 2,680 acres, Salyer said.

In north-central Washington, a 300-acre fire on Pickens Mountain appeared to have started after ″some sort of religious event,″ said DNR spokesman Jack Zaccardo.

Firefighters found candles at the base of a large cross made of white rocks on the mountain, he said.

The fire apparently was ignited when one of the burning candles fell over, but investigators have no idea who staged the candle-burning, Zaccardo said.

That blaze and a 280-acre fire at Washburn Lake fire were declared controlled Sunday morning, said Russ Paul of the state Department of Natural Resources.

In southern California, a brushfire in the Angeles National Forest, 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, burned out of control today after charring 4,000 acres of mountain terrain and forcing the evacuation of 150 men at an alcohol rehabiliation center, officials said.

More than 560 firefighters battled the blaze and conditions were expected to be bad today, with warm Santa Ana wind and temperatures near 100 expected, said Forest Service spokeswoman Marilyn Hartley.

Although the fire was burning in the direction of the Los Angeles County- run Warm Springs Rehabiliation Center, it was evacuated ″more for smoke and ash and soot,″ said sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Sonnenblick.

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