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Crews Contain Deadly Wash. Wildfire

July 24, 2001

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) _ A wildfire has been contained two weeks after it exploded and killed four young firefighters.

``We’re happy to get containment,″ Donna Nemeth, spokeswoman for the interagency crews fighting the blaze, said Monday.

There is no estimated date for when the fire will be extinguished, Nemeth said. But she said the 9,300-acre fire in the northern Cascade range, though not completely out, presents no danger of crossing the fire line.

Forty firefighters remained to snuff out small fires that flared inside the line periodically, said Sharon Sweeney, a Forest Service spokeswoman.

The four victims were among 21 firefighters on mop-up duty July 10 who were trapped in the blaze, which, stoked by high winds and high temperatures, exploded from 25 acres to 2,500 acres in less than three hours.

Tom Craven, 30, Devin Weaver, 21, Jessica Johnson, 19, and Karen FitzPatrick, 18, were killed by breathing superheated air as the fire burned through the area where they had deployed their emergency heat-resistant fire shelters. It was the country’s deadliest wildfire since 1994.

The blaze is believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire.

Another firefighter, Jason Emhoff, 21, survived with serious burns and is undergoing unusual treatment at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Doctors will tuck his badly burned left hand inside his abdomen and leave it to heal for three weeks, hoping that blood vessels there will grow onto the hand, said Dr. David Heimbach, director of the hospital’s burn center. Skin grafts can then be done on top of the new blood vessels, he said.

Emhoff’s hands were so badly burned that at first, doctors had feared they would have to be amputated.

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