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Weather Gives Firefighters An Advantage In Lake County Blaze

August 20, 1996

A damp Tuesday morning that had firefighters shivering provided the break exhausted crews needed to get the jump on a 77,000-acre fire threatening 400 structures around northern California’s Clear Lake.

``The early morning humidity was an aid to us,″ spokesman David Weitz said. ``Firefighters are somewhat optimistic this morning.″

The blaze was one of dozens around the West that had crews scrambling in one of the earliest and fiercest fire seasons in years.

Six hundred soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., joined 3,176 firefighters from across the country to battle against the ``Fork Fire,″ which was threatening eight communities surrounding the Clear Lake resort area.

The firefighters were more than happy to put on jackets against a damp and chilly morning that gave them a chance to catch up with the flames. By mid-morning, they had the blazes 25 percent circled.

In the Sierra Nevada, four separate lightning-ignited fires continued to threaten 22 historic homesteader cabins in Yosemite National Park and several reforested areas.

Those blazes had scorched a combined 41,730 acres by Tuesday. Three of them were only 10 percent contained and 1,200 firefighters continued to sweat it out on the front lines.

Near San Luis Obispo on the central California coast, a wildfire roared through Los Padres National Forest, where it destroyed a cabin that biologists used to monitor captive-bred condors released into the wild.

That fire had blackened 69,500 acres by Monday morning and firefighters had surrounded only about half of the blaze, said Nena Portillo, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

Crews expected to have it surround by Thursday evening, CDF spokesman Greg McSwain said.

In southwestern Colorado, archaeologists and firefighters worked side-by-side to protect a visitors center and Far View Lodge as a wildfire atop Mesa Verde National Park swelled to 4,000 acres.

Workers were removing valuable artifacts from the visitors center as winds threatened to whip the fire toward the museum and laboratory, Mesa Verde park ranger Pat Bertram said.

In Miles, Wash., crews had contained a wildfire that burned 550 acres of scattered timber, grass and brush on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Authorities believed it was started by an unattended campfire.

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