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Wildfire Moves Close to Town, Threatens Spotted Owl

August 7, 1995

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) _ Deputies went door to door today warning residents of a desert community to be ready to evacuate as a brush fire moved in their direction.

The fire also was burning into mountain habitat of bighorn sheep and the threatened spotted owl, officials said.

The fire had burned 21,000 acres of desert brush and by midday was four to five miles from the unincorporated community of Morongo Valley, about 20 miles northwest of Palm Springs, the state Department of Forestry said.

Officials had not determined today how much of fire was contained. Late Sunday, they estimated it was 50 percent surrounded.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies warned some Morongo Springs residents to be ready in case they are ordered out of the town, a bedroom community for Palm Springs, said spokeswoman Mary Zeiter.

Fire officials said the blaze had burned into the San Gorgonio wilderness area, a mountainous region that is home to bighorn sheep. Some spotted owls, listed as threatened in the old growth forests of the Northwest, also have been moving into the area, forestry officials said.

``We don’t know if we lost them or if they’re OK,″ said San Bernardino County fire spokesman Bill Peters. ``It’s burning in a very inaccessible area.″

Mechanical firefighting equipment such as bulldozers is barred from wilderness areas.

More than 1,400 firefighters have battled the fire, started Friday by an overheated electrical cord being used to charge a tractor battery. The flames destroyed a trailer, two small buildings and several vehicles.

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