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Burning Continues on Grounded Ship

February 15, 1999

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) _ Crews continued firebombing the wreckage of a cargo ship that ran aground, hoping to burn away the remnants of oil still in its cracked hull.

A helicopter dropped a fire accelerant on the ship Sunday afternoon to reignite one of the holds of the New Carissa, which may have as much as 50,000 gallons of fuel oil remaining.

``It’s possible to burn down to a matter of millimeters of oil. It’s our goal to burn as much as possible, if not all of it,″ said Petty Officer Greg Folkins, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Similar fire drops were planned today, weather permitting, Folkins said.

Heavy surf continued to pound the wreck on Sunday, with the stern section listing heavily and the bow section so spun around by waves that it now points toward shore.

The New Carissa went aground nearly two weeks ago, and was found a week ago to be leaking. It was first set ablaze Thursday to burn as much of the 400,000 gallons of fuel oil on board as possible in the hope of minimizing the spill.

Coast Guard officials say there’s no way to know for sure how much fuel remains in the ship. Stephen Zylstra, a contaminants specialist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, estimated that as much as 90 percent of the oil, or 360,000 gallons, has been burned off the grounded freighter.

While the amount that leaked has been relatively small, tar balls have been spotted along the shore and 37 dead birds have been found. The tar balls were ``very few and far between,″ said Petty Officer J. Bigelow, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Much of the leaked fuel is expected to drop below the ocean’s surface, washing up for weeks to come, and possibly months. The ship is aground in an area known as the Leberti Hole, considered a prime crab-fishing area.

About 300 workers clad in yellow or white protective suits hit the beaches and coastline each time the tide drops. By Sunday, hundreds of bags of oily sand filled dozens of Dumpsters.

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