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USDA Chief Confronted By Angry Homeowner Who Lost Possessions in Fire

May 22, 1996

BUFFALO CREEK, Colo. (AP) _ A volunteer firefighter whose home was destroyed by a 10,000-acre fire while she helped evacuate Cub Scouts took her anger straight to the man in charge of the U.S. Forest Service.

Open campfires should have been outlawed because forests in the area are dried out, Aimee King-Rogers told Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

``My home was destroyed and my parents’ home was destroyed. There should have been a fire ban,″ King-Rogers said as Glickman toured the fire site 30 miles southwest of Denver on Tuesday.

The fire that began Saturday in the Pike National Forest, destroying six homes, has been traced to a camp site. Authorities have questioned five teen-agers who said their campfire may have accidentally ignited the blaze. No charges have been filed.

Larry Dove of the Bureau of Land Management said the fire could be 100 percent contained later today if the weather cooperates. Full control of the fire is anticipated this weekend.

``Today’s kind of a critical day because it’s supposed to get a lot warmer and we’re supposed to get some wind. Today’s a test,″ Dove said.

King-Rogers, a paramedic and volunteer firefighter, told Glickman of her losses as he discussed the fire with reporters.

She said she was evacuating Cub Scouts and other campers from an area near her property when the fire reached her fields. She lost two horses, a goat and two cats in addition to her home.

``A 100-foot wall of flames was coming over that hill towards us, and we couldn’t get them out,″ she said of her animals.

Glickman did not address her demand for a ban on open fires but told her forest fires are bound to become more common as urban areas expand into the forests.

``Individuals are going to have to bear a personal responsibility in terms of how they build their homes and set their fires,″ he said.

That angered King-Rogers.

``I agree we have to be more responsible, but what do you have to say about land management?″ King-Rogers asked. ``We understand the forest. We live here. But the Forest Service also has a responsibility to manage forests and listen more to the people who are living here.″

Dan Jiron of the Forest Service said that while he sympathized with King-Rogers’ loss, homeowners and recreationalists often fight federal efforts to reduce fire threats, especially prescribed burns to reduce the amount of dead wood that provides fuel for big fires.

``Just by that, you can see the scope of what we have to deal with to implement fire bans,″ he said.

In another fire, an 8,100-acre blaze in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Ariz., was 90 percent contained today, the Forest Service said. Crews hope to have complete control by late Saturday over the fire that briefly closed a highway leading to the Grand Canyon during the weekend.

About 2 million acres of national forest across Arizona has been closed to the public because of the fire danger.

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