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Brush Fires Rampage In Arizona, Calif.; Body Found In One

June 14, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Diminishing winds helped firefighters battle a 9,800-acre brush fire on steep, rocky terrain in southern Arizona Monday, and in Montana most fire crews returned home after controlling a 17,000-acre grass fire that killed cattle and destroyed three homes.

A small fire in southern California’s Angeles National Forest may have been started by a killer disposing of a woman’s body. Firefighters elsewhere in the same forest Monday evening contained a 710-acre brush fire that may have been the work of an arsonist.

And in southwest New Mexico, firefighters struggled with at least five lightning-caused wildfires that charred more than 500 acres of grassland and trees. Authorities said the largest fire burned at least 400 acres of grass, brush, juniper trees and pockets of ponderosa pine trees on federal lands.

Twenty-four fires were reported in New Mexico from the lightning of a Friday afternoon storm, authorities said.

″Things are looking very good down along the border,″ said Jim Payne, a spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service in Phoenix.

Payne said winds died down Monday to 15 to 20 mph, allowing firefighters to work towards consolidating fire lines that have been cut along the flanks of the blaze.

Payne said the fire, which started Friday in Mexico, has consumed 2,500 acres in northwest Sonora and 7,300 acres in Arizona.

He said firefighters hope to have the blaze contained by Wednesday evening.

The blaze was named the Peaks fire because it was on Coronado National Forest slopes so steep that the fire-line elevation ranged from 5,200 feet to 7,200 feet.

In southern California, the charred body of a woman was found early Monday in a small brush fire was an apparent homicide victim, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Investigators believe the woman was killed elsewhere, dumped and set ablaze, said Deputy Gabe Ramirez.

That fire was fanned Sunday night by northeasterly winds gusting to 35 mph, but during the day Monday the wind shifted to the southwest, bringing in moist ocean air, said Forest Service spokesman Mike Wickman.

The only reported loss was an apiary, but firefighters managed to save another set of beehives, Mike Wickman said. No injuries were reported.

A fire that raced across 17,000 acres of parched Montana grassland, destroying three homes and killing cows, was declared under control Monday.

An Amtrak train apparently sparked the fire Friday in eastern Montana, said Roosevelt County Fire Chief Lyle Knudsen. The flames quickly spread into North Dakota’s Williams County. No serious injuries were reported.

Most firefighters were withdrawn Monday.

″We’ve just got a few guys keeping an eye out, spot checks, but all the (fire) departments have returned in,″ Knudsen said.

Officials were unsure how many head of cattle were lost in the fire. Cattle displaced by the fire were widely scattered, Knudsen said, adding: ″We definitely need hay or pasture, because we’ve got hundreds of head of cattle without anything to eat.″

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