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Crews Battle Fires In Washington And California

August 5, 1987

Undated (AP) _ California firefighters were close to containing a fire that had burned 900 acres of brush in a rural area today, while cooler air and weakened wind helped fire crews battling a 300-acre fire in rugged timber and brush in Washington.

The fire near Santa Margarita, Calif., inland from the city of San Luis Obispo, destroyed two small sheds but firefighters were able to protect houses, said Julie Farr, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

The fire was 80 percent contained today and crews hoped to have it fully contained by fire breaks by evening.

″The wind died down overnight and the humidity climbed, which helped a lot,″ said California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Val Houdyshell. ″We’re all just holding our breaths to see what the weather will bring today.″

Some 200 firefighters were on duty today, mostly setting backfires in the area 155 miles northwest of Los Angeles, she said.

Residents had been warned to be ready to move at a moment’s notice after the fire erupted Tuesday, said Lt. Jack Maher of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department.

″We didn’t have to evacuate them, but we notified them, if they didn’t already know it, that they’ve got a fire around their ears,″ Maher said.

Near Goldendale, Wash., just north of the Columbia River Gorge, crews worked on a fire in Little Klickitat Canyon that was contained Tuesday evening and hoped to have it mopped up by tonight, said Rob Harper of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Tim Boyd of the DNR said wind died down during the night after complicating ″an already tough situation″ in which firefighters had to contend with temperatures in the mid-90s, steep terrain, rolling debris and rattlesnakes.

The area in south-central Washington contains some homes, but they were not immediately threatened, Harper said. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Another wind-whipped fire burned 160 acres on Decatur Island in the San Juan chain off northwestern Washington, but it had stopped spreading today and was dying down after burning a barn and a small wellhouse.

The fire on private property had burned ″right up to″ four homes but did not damage them, said JoAnn Gustafson of the DNR. The fire was about 50 percent surrounded by fire breaks today, she said.

Elsewhere in southern California, firefighters in Los Angeles County brought two blazes under control, while inspectors worked to determine the cause of five small fires in the San Bernardino National Forest.

One 25-acre fire in the Angeles National Forest was touched off by a car that went off a road and plunged 300 feet down the side of a mountain.

″We’re not 100 percent certain it was an accident,″ said firefighter Rich Hawkins of the U.S. Forest Service. California Highway Patrol Officer Cleo Green said the car may have been pushed. No body was found.

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