Cooler Weather Helps Firefighters’ Battle In Oregon But Other Blazes Continue To Burn Elsewhere In The West

MONDAY, AUG. 19, 1996

Cooler weather, including snow in one area, helped firefighters trying to bring Oregon wildfires under control Sunday before the next blast of hot, dry weather hits the region.

“Most of the fires are starting to wind down somewhat, but by Thursday, it is supposed to warm up and get dry again. We are trying to get things well in hand before then,” said Roberta Hilbruner, spokeswoman for the Northwest Coordination Center.

Meanwhile, major fires continued burning Sunday in parts of California, and fastmoving fires roared across Montana grassland. Smaller fires also were being fought elsewhere across the West.

Oregon’s biggest fire, which has burned across 108,000 acres on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation about 90 miles southeast of Portland and destroyed 11 homes, was 70 percent contained Sunday with full containment expected by Tuesday.

Half of the 880 firefighters working on the blaze were being reassigned to other fires, Hilbruner said. They were among more than 7,000 firefighters at work in Oregon, where some 368,000 acres have burned in the past few weeks.

Firefighters have contained a large fire that burned last week in the Hells Canyon area along the border between Oregon and Idaho. That area got snow Sunday morning.

Near the central California coast, more than 1,000 firefighters were at work Sunday battling a 47,000-acre fire in the Los Padres National Forest east of San Luis Obispo.

The fire started Thursday and grew by more than 6,000 acres between Saturday night and midafternoon Sunday, according to the California Department of Forestry.

It has destroyed three houses and slightly injured eight firefighters.

Crews in Northern California are facing several major fires, including one near Clear Lake which has charred 46,500 acres, a collection of 13 fires that have burned 12,000 acres near and partially inside Yosemite National Park and a nearby 10,500-acre blaze.

“We’ve got (firefighters) here from Florida, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, pretty much all over the United States,” said David Witt, a National Forest Service information officer.

Some two dozen Yosemite park employees living in the Hetch Hetchy area were forced to evacuate during the weekend. An unknown number of residents of Spring Valley and Long Valley had evacuated their homes.

The 10,500-acre fire near the park, about 45 percent contained Sunday, is burning in steep terrain that is inaccessible in places. If it reaches the north fork of the Tuolumne River, it would threaten the several hundred residents of Tuolumne city, Witt said.

“This area burned in 1987, and it was ready to burn again,” he said.

The biggest problem in Montana was a group of fires in Custer County in the state’s southeastern corner. They have raced across 52,000 acres of grassland after being started by lightning late Saturday.


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