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Cool Weather Calms Some Western Forest Fires

August 29, 1988

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) _ A second day of calm weather Sunday in Yellowstone National Park put firefighters ahead in their war against forest fires and temperatures almost down to freezing slowed flames in Montana.

″Basically, things are pretty calm because the weather is giving us a break,″ said fire information officer Sue Consolo in Montana.

Fires also continued burning in forests and grassland in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Yellowstone officials said the fires that had charred about 450,000 acres of the park had grown little from Saturday.

Park officials decided to close the elegant Lake Hotel nearly a month early because of a dramatic drop in the number of tourists visiting Yellowstone. Some other hotels remained open.

The Wolf Lake blaze, about five miles west of the world-famous Old Faithful geyser, remained stable overnight, said park spokeswoman Marsha Karle. That fire is the northeastern end of the 85,400-acre North Fork fire.

Other fires in the park included the 182,100-acre Clover-Mist fire in the northeast and the 92,315-acre Snake Complex south of the North Fork fire. Just south of the park in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Huck fire held at 30,500 acres.

Just a week ago, 1,200 soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., were sent to help firefighters outside the park. Now 550 soldiers, also from Fort Lewis, have been deployed in Yellowstone to help on the North Fork fire, which has been burning since July 23.

″They said ’don’t be surprised if you’re out here the whole month of September,‴ said Pfc. Mark Philipps.

The Forest Service also announced it would begin hiring 4,000 temporary firefighters in Western states on Monday through state Job Service offices.

Temperatures dipped as low as 30 degrees at West Yellowstone, Mont., at the park’s west entrance early Sunday, and no significant wind was expected during the day.

In south-central Montana, the Hellroaring Creek fire expanded overnight by 1,100 acres, to 34,200 acres, but firefighters were optimistic because of light wind.

The nearby Storm Creek fire that briefly threatened two towns last week was relatively calm, said Consolo, the fire information officer.

Despite inadequate manpower and equipment because of fires elsewhere, firefighters nearly contained most of Oregon’s fires Sunday, easing the threat to a 1,000-resident subdivision near Grants Pass and a remote village, officials said. Nearly 45,000 acres of timber and grass have burned since a series of fires was sparked by lightning Tuesday.

″We feel pretty good today - things have progressed pretty well,″ said Ron DeHart, spokesman for the Washington-Oregon Multiagency Coordination Center in Portland. ″We just hope the weather doesn’t bring us some more storms and lightning.″

One firefighter got a scare when a bear chased him up a smoldering tree Saturday in southern Oregon, Mike Barsotti, a state forestry spokesman. The man climbed so close to burning branches that his boots were burned, he said.

″When they finally got him down, he was shaken enough that they were afraid to take him in, so they called for an ambulance,″ Barsotti said. ″But he’s all right now.″

Forest fires in Idaho have charred a total of 56,940 acres, and fires continued to burn out of control Sunday in the Payette, Nez Perce, Boise, Challis, Clearwater, Salmon, Caribou and Idaho Panhandle national forests, and in the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church River Of No Return wilderness areas, said Sandra Alley, fire information officer at the Boise Interagency Fire Center.

About 1,750 people were fighting six major groups of fires that have blackened nearly 16,000 acres in Washington, said DeHart.

The weather service said a weather front should move across Washington from the Pacific on Monday, bringing cooler temperatures statewide and a chance of drizzle in some westside locations.

Utah firefighters aided by cooler temperatures closed in on a 505-acre fire near Pineview Reservoir in northern Utah, and only mop-up remained on a blaze in the Ashley National Forest in eastern Utah, fire officials said.

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