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Five Homes Destroyed in California

July 7, 1987

Undated (AP) _ A wall of flames trapped firefighters briefly before raging through a California mountain resort, destroying five homes and damaging five others.

″We were surrounded by the fire for about 30 minutes,″ said Tom Smith, an engineer with the U.S. Forest Service and one of the firefighters battling the Monday afternoon blaze in Baldwin Lake.

″With a 15-mile-per-hour wind, and the fire traveling at about 5 miles an hour ... it was pretty scary there for a while.″

Lo Vae Pray-Martines, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry, said ″it seemed like an eternity″ between the time the firefighters reported they were surrounded and the time they said the wind had shifted and they were safe.

Meanwhile, in Utah, firefighters mopped up a 570-acre fire in the Uinta National Forest, but battled a 100-acre fire in the Wasatch National Forest.

The fire in California’s San Bernardino Mountains burned 100 acres, destroying four houses and a mobile home and damaging five other residences.

″The windows and the trees were literally exploding,″ Smith said.

The 250 firefighters contained the blaze about 6:30 p.m. Monday and there were no injuries reported, Ms. Pray-Martines said. The blaze, east of popular Big Bear Lake and 95 miles east of Los Angeles, was expected to be fully controlled later today.

Damage was estimated at more than $370,000. The fire burned several smaller structures such as barns, garages, sheds and fences, M. Pray-Martines said. The cause was under investigation.

Betty and George Ward, whose retirement home was damaged by the fire, thought their home would be bypassed by the rapidly moving flames.

″I looked out the window and saw the smoke coming from over the ridge,″ Ward said. ″And a few minutes, later a bellowing plume of smoke and flames was coming down the hill toward the house.″

The Ward home received only exterior damage. The greatest loss was the trees, Ward said.

The fire in the Uinta National Forest in central Utah was declared under control Monday, and the 167 firefighters were being demobolized, said Lori Ensley, a dispatcher with the Interagency Fire Center in Salt Lake City.

That fire was first reported June 30 as a 75-acre blaze caused by lightning, but high winds last Thursday pushed it past 500 acres.

A three-acre fire four miles northeast of Oakley in the Wasatch National Forest of northern Utah grew to 100 acres Monday and was burning in heavy timber, said J.R. Davis, an interagency dispatcher in Salt Lake City.

Containment was expected today. Lightning was also blamed in that fire.

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