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Calif Fire Forces Evacuations, Yellowstone Gets Little Help From Snow

September 19, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Two northern California fires burned at least 15 homes Sunday and forced evacuation of at least 200 people, while in Yellowstone National Park less snow fell than expected but frosty temperatures kept flames down.

A storm over west-central Montana produced enough snow and rain that fire crews were allowed to begin returning home. Idaho got little precipitation and crews faced some new fires.

The 8,700-acre brush fire near Vacaville, southwest of Sacramento, led to the evacuation of 65 people from 12 homes and burned at least nine homes, in addition to two outbuildings, said California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Dianne Sanders.

The fire apparently was set by an arsonist, Department of Forestry investigator Loyde Johnson said, but he would not elaborate.

Winds, which earlier in the day had gusted up to 35 mph, decreased later in the day, making firefighters hopeful they would be able to gain the upper hand by nightfall.

″It’s looking better because of the change in the wind down to about 12 miles per hour, so we’re able to get in there finally with bulldozers and hand crews,″ said John Ferreira, another forestry spokesman, late Sunday afternoon. ″It’s laid down quite a bit now.″

The wind-swept flames also threatened about 50 other homes in the area about 55 miles northeast of San Francisco, forest department spokesman John Ferreria said.

Vacaville Fire Chief Howard Wood said several radio towers were damaged by the fire on top of Mount Vaca. Two people suffered burns, he said.

North of Vacaville, six homes were destroyed as about 7,000 acres burned Sunday east of Redding and 40 to 50 families were evacuated from the small communities of Whitmore and Oak Run, California forestry spokeswoman Lisa Chiesa said.

An additional 85 people were evacuated from a private school called the Cascade School, said spokeswoman Evelyn Dollarhide. Twelve outbuildings were destroyed, including a barn containing several classic cars, officials said.

Fighting the fire was difficult because of dry timber and wind gusting up to 45 mph, Chiesa said.

Up to 6 inches of snow had been forecast for Yellowstone, in northwestern Wyoming, but most of the park got only a dusting.

However, by midday the temperature was still only 37 degrees, limiting fire activity and allowing crews to jump on hot spots before they had a chance to get out of hand, said fire information officer Judy Jennings.

The park has been besieged for nearly three months by dry weather and fires that have charred more than half its 2.2 million acres.

Jennings said crews on many fires would hold off on building containment lines.

″There’s really no need for it right now. Fire activity is low in most locations throughout the park,″ she said.

And in any event, fire managers have said the terrain and access around parts of the 335,300-acre North Fork blaze make building containment lines there extremely difficult. Natural barriers surrounding the fire were expected to help keep it in line.

In west-central Montana, firefighting crews and the soldiers who reinforced them began pulling out of the 247,000-acre Canyon Creek fire Sunday while a storm continued to drop snow and rain. Officials said the force would be replaced by 20-member rapid-response teams in each of the three national forests that the fire affected: Lolo, Lewis and Clark and Helena.

Some firefighters also were being released Sunday from the 35,400-acre Red Bench fire in and near Glacier National Park, said fire information officer Jim Payne. He said hotspots and the potential for renewed trouble remained.

Glacier officials said snow and rain had reduced fire danger enough to allow reopening of backcountry trails and campgrounds, but with some restrictions.

A weather front that moved over Idaho on Saturday brought disappointingly light precipitation, and firefighters had two new fires that started Friday and Saturday, one caused by lightning, said Nez Perce National Forest spokeswoman Mary Zabinski.

But high humidity and temperatures in the 40s helped firefighters in their effort to keep most Idaho wildfires within the boundaries of the Frank Church- River of No Return, Gospel Hump and Selway-Bitterroot wilderness areas.

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