Firefighters Making Advances Against Western Blazes With AM-Fire Center Bjt
Undated (AP) _ All but one major forest fire in Oregon should be contained this weekend, fire officials said Saturday, and firefighters battling huge conflagrations in northern California were reported closer to containment as dense, choking smoke continued to subside.
Firefighters in Washington mopped up the last of their blazes, while crews in Arizona and southern California each had one out-of-control fire. Crews in Montana hoped to have a 175-acre fire in rugged terrain contained by Sunday morning.
Since a wave of lightning storms began setting fires Aug. 28, more than 1,100 square miles of forest, brush and grassland have gone up in smoke in the West.
A fourth firefighter was killed in California, in the Stanislaus National Forest, the Forest Service said Saturday. A tree the man was cutting down knocked down another tree that fell on him Friday, said spokesman Kirk Landuyt. The three previous deaths involved vehicular accidents, two of them blamed on dense smoke.
Crews in Washington were aided Saturday by cool, humid weather with no wind.
The weary 13,000 firefighters in northern California, where more than 865 square miles burned, were aided by lingering weather inversions and reduced fire activity Saturday, a Forest Service spokesman said.
″We still haven’t had any rain to speak of, but the cool temperatures and calm air are allowing the crews to achieve containment on more and more fires,″ said Sacramento-based spokesman Ray Schaaf.
Of the 558,636 acres charred in California by 1,247 fires, nearly a quarter of the acreage was in the northernmost part of the state in the Klamath National Forest, where almost 6,000 firefighters continued trying to tame 32 major blazes and 40 smaller ones.
Smoke from those fires have effectively blocked the sun from view in the northwest California town of Happy Camp since the fires began, although visibility was improving Saturday. ″All we’ve seen of it since then is once or twice a big red blob through the smoke,″ said Gail Zink, one of 1,100 residents of the town 15 miles south of the Oregon state boundary.
The Klamath fires were roughly 40 percent contained, with 250 miles of fire lines around the perimeters, ″but we still have a long way to go,″ said state forestry department spokesman John Garland.
But in the Stanislaus National Forest, in the Sierra Nevada about 130 miles east of San Francisco, a complex of fires that burned more than 100,000 acres was 75 percent contained, and should be completely contained by Monday night, Forest Service officials said.
In Mendocino County, along the coast north of San Francisco, 68 fires were all reported contained. But inland, two of three major blazes remained out of control in the Mendocino National Forest.
Fire officials in Oregon said all but the 28,100-acre Silver Complex of fires 25 miles north of Grants Pass should be contained by firebreaks Sunday. That complex was 25 percent contained Saturday morning, said Forest Service spokeswoman Patty Burel.
The 650 Army soldiers sent to Oregon from Fort Ord, Calif., were shifted to that fire Friday after finishing mop-up chores on another blaze. They nearly doubled the number of firefighters battling the Silver Complex fires.
The 18,400-acre Galice fire 20 miles west of Grants Pass in the Siskiyou National Forest was 85 percent contained by Saturday morning, Ms. Burel said.
Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt visited a fire camp Friday at Valley of the Rogue State Park and congratulated Oregon National Guardsmen and firefighters from as far away as Michigan and Arizona.
″This is probably the largest (National Guard) call-up we’ve had in modern times,″ Goldschmidt said. ″You made us proud. You ought to be proud of yourselves. Way to go 3/8″
In southern California, the Silverado fire in the Cleveland National Forest was 60 percent contained Saturday at 3,200 acres and full containment was expected Sunday, said Forest Service spokesman Tom Horner.
That arson fire had briefly threatened homes and nearly 1,200 firefighters were battling it in steep terrain.
In southern Arizona, a brush fire in the Coronado National Forest had burned 3,650 acres in the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside Tucson. Spokeswoman Mry Anna Wheat said 75 firefighters, including inmates from state prisons, were battling that blaze in shifts and had a fire break about 80 percent complete.