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Fire Closes Road In Yellowstone, Lightning Starts Fires In Idaho

August 12, 1988

Undated (AP) _ A forest fire fanned by gusty wind has closed one road to Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, and firefighters today faced dozens of lightning-started fires in Idaho.

Fire burning underground in a peat bog in Washington state bedeviled firefighters and choked a Seattle suburb with smoke.

″You’re walking along and it looks like solid ground and then you fall three feet into hot coals,″ said Lynda Coombs, a volunteer at Redmond, Wash. ″It’s like standing in a barbecue pit.″

Forest and brush fires also burned in California, Montana and Nevada. A grass fire in Utah was contained and firefighters controlled a lightning-spark ed grass fire that burned up to 15,000 acres in the Nebraska panhandle.

In Yellowstone, the 40,000-acre North Fork fire jumped across the road north of Old Faithful and authorities said the road probably would open and close periodically with increased fire activity. The geyser was still accessible from the south. Extra crews of firefighters were assigned to the blaze as it moved eastward, bringing the force up to 700 people.

″The fire has been moving very fast, is burning very hot and putting up a large column of smoke,″ said park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo. The column of smoke was between 35,000 and 40,000 feet high Thursday afternoon.

About 2,000 firefighters were working on fires that had burned about 196,000 acres of Yellowstone as of Thursday.

Flames quieted down enough on the 34,000-acre Shoshone and Red fires in the park to allow officials to reopen the majority of the approximately 400 spaces at the Grant Village campground today, Anzelmo said.

A thunderstorm that swept through Idaho Thursday dotted the state’s forests and rangelands with flame. Estimates of the number of fires jumped from 50 to 75 Thursday night as dispatchers received more reports.

The Walker Creek fire on the Caribou National Forest forced the evacuation of about 16 families from their homes on Indian Creek south of Inkom in southeastern Idaho. The 3,000-acre blaze was believed contained Thursday but wind gusting to 25 mph pushed the flames over lines and toward the homes.

Crews in the Challis National Forest in central Idaho worked to create a buffer between the 13,500-acre Battleaxe wilderness fire and a guard station and a private airstrip about a mile to the south.

Smoke from the peat bog fire at Redmond, Wash., combined with patchy fog, has caused morning commuter traffic problems and road closures, and the stench has choked residents and dairy cows.

An irrigation sprinkler was used to apply 35,000 gallons of water an hour, cooling the ground so firefighters could walk on it and use hoses to spray the smoldering peat as it was exposed by bulldozers and backhoes.

″It’s so hot out there you’re pants will catch on fire. It will get in your boots,″ said Bill James, a volunteer firefighter from Carnation.

Police Sgt. George Potts said visibility was so low in the smoke Thursday morning that he couldn’t see a patrol car with flashers working more than six feet away. ″It’s like driving into a brick wall,″ Potts said.

Firefighters in Nevada controlled a lightning-caused blaze after it charred 1,800 acres of brush with 50-foot-high flames in the outskirts of Carson City that forced about 200 people to briefly evacuate their homes.

Crews in Montana worked today to cut fire lines through the steep Elkhorn Mountains to battle the Warm Springs Creek fire. The fire has burned some 2,500 acres in the Helena National Forest, about 15 miles southeast of Helena, and fire information officer Dave Turner said elevations in the fire area ranged from 5,800 feet to 8,500 feet.

An out-of-control fire fueled by heavy brush and pushed by strong, erratic wind put more than 1,300 firefighters to the test in the Sequoia National Forest early today, burning more than 2,000 acres, officials said. The fire destroyed two cabins and threatened others in steep terrain about 35 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

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