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Western Oregon’s Biggest Fire In 20 Years Just About Contained

July 21, 1987

Undated (AP) _ About 680 firefighters dug a line Monday around the worst blaze to hit western Oregon in 20 years, while crews from two Southern California counties brought an 800-acre brush fire under control and efforts wound down in three other states.

The blaze near Canyonville, Ore., called the Bland Mountain fire has blackened 10,300 acre, burned eight homes and killed two loggers since it began last week. Sunny weather Monday after several days of rain helped fire crews gain better footholds on the steep terrain, said Randall Lau, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Firefighting costs have reached an estimated $1.05 million and timber and structures destroyed so far are valued at $2.5 million, said Jim Fisher, another Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman.

Fire crews completed trails around the burn’s perimeter Monday night, said Ken Palen, another department spokesman.

″We want people to stay out of the area if they can avoid it,″ Lau said. ″We had a lot of tourists yesterday and they hampered our transport.″

He also said pilots have been warned to stay out of an eight-mile radius from the center of the fire. Three planes were identified flying through the restricted airspace and forestry officials have reported them to the Federal Aviation Administration for possible fines and license revocation, Lau said.

In Idaho, fire bosses pulled out some 200 more firefighters from the now- controlled Minneha Creek fire, leaving only a few crews to complete mop-up work at the 1,900-acre blaze.

Cool, rainy weather drastically reduced further threat from the fire that started a week ago, started by a downed power line.

The blaze was controlled Saturday, just two days after near triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds gave way to damp weather and highs in the 60s. At its peak, some 550 firefighters worked 15 miles of fire lines.

In Southern California, 90 firefighters from Ventura and Los Angeles counties brought a brushfire under control in Simi Valley after more than eight hours of work, said Ventura County Fire Department spokeswoman Rhonda Roller.

″The fire is out but we still have a few hot spots,″ she said. ″We have three engines watching the blaze but everyone else has been sent home.″

The blaze charred more than 800 acres of vegetation about 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, she said.

Further inland, morning mist Monday helped firefighters control a blaze that charred 600 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest. While the fire briefly threatened homes in Oak Hills on Sunday, no damage was reported, said LoVae Pray-Martines of the California Department of Forestry and Fire.

″It was controlled at noon (Monday). It has been raining, just a light gentle mist, but that’s helped us a lot,″ she said.

The wildfire, triggered by hot carbon exhaust from a train, was reported Sunday. Six hundred firefighters fought the blaze as it raged unchecked Sunday afternoon, fanned by wind gusts up to 40 mph, Ms. Pray-Martines said.

Tinder-dry Joshua trees, chaparral and weeds fueled the fire, which came within a quarter mile of about 500 horse ranches and homes. Firefighters using 25 engines built a ″curtain of water″ to protect the homes in the rustic community near Cajon Summit, she said. No evacuations were necessary.

Cajon Pass is about 50 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

In Utah, crews continued Monday mopping up a 3,000-acre brush fire ignited Saturday by sparks flying from M-16 rifle shells at the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams.

The blaze was declared under control Sunday after gusting winds of up to 30 mph subsided, allowing crews to ring the blaze with fire lines, officials said.

The fire was the worst in three years and the second in two weeks at the guard training ground, said National Guard Maj. Paul Hough said. A fire in approximately the same area last week was started by lightning.

″To give you an idea of how bad it was, the wind moved it totally out of control in less than five minutes,″ Hough said. ″It was moving faster than a man could run.″

No buildings are in the area, which is covered with sagebrush and scrub pine, and no injuries were reported, Hough said.

In north-central Washington state, rains Sunday helped firefighters control a 400-acre forest fire that snaked along the Twisp River, authorities said. The fire was ignited July 5 by lightning.

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