Wildfire Roars Around Resort Towns
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) _ Firefighters battled back flames from huge wildfires that roared around mountain resort towns on Thursday as hotel owners and shopkeepers feared the pall of smoke would kill their usually prosperous Labor Day business.
Closed campgrounds and a canceled carnival had merchants worrying about the impact on tourism on the last holiday weekend of summer.
In the tiny hamlet of Fawnskin on the north side of the lake, Barb Aker, owner of Gold Pan Dining, filled salt shakers in her empty restaurant.
``It will affect business big time,″ Mrs. Aker said. ``It’s very, very slow. There’s no traffic at all. Normally cars are piling in by now.″
The West’s largest blaze, the 60,100-acre Willow fire 90 miles east of Los Angeles, threatened to derail a couple’s planned nuptials at this scenic resort.
``A lot of people coming to the wedding are scared to come up,″ said Ken Nairne, 40, of Borrego Springs as he ordered flowers for Saturday’s ceremony. ``We were worried we’d have to cancel the wedding. We were all freaking out but we’re handling it.″
As Nairne spoke, a wall of smoke hung over a ridge some six miles to the northwest and a steady stream of helicopters dipped buckets into the lake, scooping up to 900 gallons. More than 2,200 firefighters fought the fire, which was 35 percent contained.
The blaze was one of seven large California fires that burned about 125,000 acres of forest and desert land.
Firefighters got the upper hand in six other significant wildfires in Montana, Utah and Idaho, where a 35,118-acre grass blaze near the Snake River community of Glenns Ferry was contained Wednesday night.
Crews torched woodlands to deprive the fire of fuel and protect Green Valley, a tiny mountain town that canceled its annual water carnival for the Labor Day weekend.
``That’s pretty much on the back burner, I doubt we’ll do anything,″ said Rod Peacock, who manages some 50 rental cabins.
``Everything’s OK so far, the fires did get pretty close yesterday,″ he said. ``If they kick up, we’ll be in trouble.″
The blaze, which destroyed 12 desert homes in Apple Valley, started Saturday as a campfire in San Bernardino National Forest.
Only two of the area’s 15 campgrounds will be open for the weekend, said Randy Clauson, fire battalion chief for the forest.
``It’s going to make for a very slow weekend,″ said Damon Dennis, manager of Alpine Sports Center, which sells camping supplies. ``Usually we’re very busy by now.″
In Los Angeles County, some campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest were closed because of a 7,000-acre blaze near Azusa that was 35 percent contained.
More than 4,000 people were evacuated earlier in the week, including 160 homeless mothers and their children attending a camp sponsored by Planet Hope, a charity founded by actress Sharon Stone and her sister, Kelly.
``It was so smoky,″ Kelly Stone said. ``I was a little freaked out because we were on the top of that mountain, and we could see the smoke from all the fires.″
In Northern California, firefighters struggled with clusters of wildfires started by lightning storms on Sunday.
The 27,100-acre High Complex fire in the Shasta-Trinity area _ actually 19 lightning-ignited blazes burning in a cluster 22 miles north of Redding _ was 85 percent surrounded. Containment was expected Saturday.
In Montana, rainfall on the Crow Indian Reservation helped subdue a small wildfire, and two others were declared controlled. All fires were sparked by lighting.