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Summer Snows Soak Forest Fire, Oregon Range Fire Keeps Burning

June 26, 1985

Undated (AP) _ A range fire that scorched 29,000 acres in southeast Oregon burned out of control Wednesday, while summer snow covering a Utah forest fire allowed firefighters an overnight break.

In Montana, cool, damp weather helped contain a fire that had threatened homes.

″You couldn’t ask for better fire-fighting weather,″ said Tom Reese, information officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Montana.

An inch of snow reduced the fire feeding on insect-damaged pines in northeastern Utah to a few smoldering hot spots, allowing more than 400 firefighters to take a break, said Jim Wiley, fire information officer.

A fire line was 75 percent complete around the blaze that has burned 4,500 acres near the Wyoming border, in the Ashley National Forest, he said. Officials said they hoped to have the fire controlled by Thursday morning.

The blaze, started Thursday by lightning, burned through lodgepole pine and Douglas fir, said Liz Moncrief, Utah Division of Lands and Forestry spokeswoman. Much of the pine had been killed by the mountain pine beetle, and the dead wood helped fuel the blaze. It also destroyed one cabin.

In Oregon, firefighters took advantage of roads and natural breaks to build a 19-mile line around most of the blaze, but it continued to spread through two miles on the west, said U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Bill Keil.

Firefighters were aided by a reduction in wind speeds from 35 mph to about 10 mph, Keil said, adding crews hoped to contain the blaze by late afternoon.

The fire began consuming sagebrush and grass late Sunday after lightning struck.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said the cause of a 920-acre blaze near the Kah-Nee-Ta resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in central Oregon remained under investigation Wednesday.

Two of the five men burned while trying to battle the blaze remained in critical condition Wednesday at Portland’s Emanuel Hospital. The other three were in serious condition, said hospital spokeswoman Lori Callister.

Fire crews were extinguishing the remains of three other Oregon fires Wednesday. They burned more than 14,000 acres of land.

The 330-acre Montana fire, which burned deadfall timber and brush near homes in the community of Bonner, about five miles east of Missoula, was declared contained Tuesday night.

Charles Wright, an investigator for the Department of State Lands, said the fire ″was caused by children playing with matches and fireworks.″

″It was a hot fire,″ said Darwin Ernst, squad boss on a nine-member state fire attack team. ″But it was a good fire. It never took the trees, just the undergrowth.″

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