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Slow, Steady Progress Against Western Fires

September 19, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Firefighters in Oregon made slow progress Saturday on that state’s last major group of forest fires, and thousands of firefighters remained on the job in hard-hit northern California.

Crews in Idaho were close to controlling a large fire in the Nez Perce National Forest, and an arrest has been made in a Southern California arson fire that briefly threatened homes.

Fires there and in other Western states have burned more than 1,100 square miles since Aug. 28.

Crews battling fires that have burned 38,800 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon were hampered by a weather phenomenon known as an inversion layer that trapped smoke near the ground.

″With the inversion layer it kept our aircraft grounded for all but about an hour yesterday afternoon,″ said Doug Salyer, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Five more crews were placed on the fires west of Grants Pass on Saturday, bringing the total number of firefighters to 1,089.

Spokeswoman Barbara Kennedy at a fire camp at Agness, Ore., said Friday that firefighters were gaining on the blazes.

″We’re slowly winning the war, but it’s a slow and very difficult process,″ she said.

Asked when the fire might be contained by firebreaks, she said: ″We haven’t even thought about that. We’ve got a lot of work to do.″

About 8,500 of the 11,000 fireighters still battling fires in California were concentrated on two dozen uncontained and extremely smoky fires in the Klamath National Forest.

″We’ve got areas where we’re having trouble hanging on, but generally the fire picture is good,″ U.S. Forest Service spokesman Bruce Bundick said Friday at a command post in Yreka. Fires have burned 572,000 acres statewide.

Over the Salmon Mountains to the south, close to 2,500 firefighters were working on 11 uncontained fires in the Shasta and Trinity national forests.

Seven firefighters have been killed in California, three of them Wednesday in a plane crash.

In Idaho, crews contained the Cove Creek fire that had charred 5,300 acres north of the Salmon River and hoped to have it completely controlled - out except for hot spots - by Sunday, officials said.

″If they can declare it controlled, the ensuing mop-up will probably take about one week. It’s slow, messy work but it must be done,″ said Forest Service spokeswoman Mary Zabinski.

Elsewhere in Idaho, the 4,800-acre Mann Creek Fire in the Payette National Forest, the 2,000-acre Tappen Gulch Fire in the Challis National Forest, the 2,700-acre Bear Fire in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the 21,000-acre Deadwood Summit Fire in the Boise National Forest all were being allowed to burn out naturally.

A man was arrested and booked for investigation of arson Friday in connection with the 7,100-acre Silverado fire in the Cleveland National Forest southeast of Los Angeles, said Forest Service spokesman Dick Marlow. The fire was set Sept. 9 and hot spots were still smoldering.

The fire, straddling the Orange-Riverside county line, at one point threatened homes near Glen Ivy Hot Springs, but they were spared when the wind shifted and turned the fire.

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