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Oregon Fire Grows to 308,000 Acres

August 9, 2002

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) _ The nation’s largest active wildfire grew to 308,000 acres Friday, threatening to become the biggest fire in Oregon history.

The blaze, in the Siskiyou National Forest and adjoining lands in southwestern Oregon and Northern California, was close to surpassing a 1933 wildfire that burned 311,000 acres in northwest Oregon.

The wildfire had at one point threatened about 17,000 people in several small towns in the Illinois Valley. That danger has eased, but the fire continued to threaten the community of Agness in the Rogue River Canyon and an area near the small coastal town of Brookings.

Sheriff’s deputies Friday were asking some Brookings-area residents to prepare to leave their homes immediately if notified.

More than 5,000 people are fighting the fire. More than $27 million has been spent trying to extinguish it, but it was only 15 percent contained.

Weather was becoming less cooperative. Forecasts called for a warming and drying trend into the weekend, with winds of up to 40 mph.

After touring the wildfire Thursday, U.S. Forest Service Dale Bosworth said thinning national forests and restoring the natural role of fire in the ecosystem should be made a top priority.

``The most important thing we can do in a good part of the West is doing some thinning and reintroduce fire back into these fire-dependent ecosystems in a controlled manner,″ Bosworth said.

The National Fire Information Center reports 5 million acres have burned in the country this year, including more than 715,000 acres in Oregon. Bosworth said the fires have cost $325 million to fight.

Elsewhere, portions of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado reopened to the public Friday, 10 days after a wildfire near its best-known archaeological attractions forced it to close.

Areas closest to the 2,601-acre fire, including the museum, the library and two cliff dwellings, remain closed. Park Superintendent Larry Wiese said helicopters were still dousing hot spots, and fire crews were still cleaning up.

The fire scorched a wall of one archaeological feature, but did no damage to any other park ruins.

East of San Diego, fire crews hoped have a 56,500-acre wildfire burning across dry mountains fully contained by Sunday.

More than 3,200 people were fighting the Pines fire, which was 60 percent contained Friday. A voluntary evacuation was in effect for 1,200 people living in three communities near the fire.

The fire has destroyed at least 35 homes, 106 barns and other outbuildings and 147 vehicles.


On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

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