- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A brush fire fueled by erratic winds threatened about 1,500 homes east of Los Angeles yesterday, while in central Oregon, crews held back another wildfire that had earlier jumped containment lines.

About 400 of the 1,500 threatened homes along the edge of California’s San Bernardino National Forest were evacuated, and firefighters were taking advantage of calmer weather yesterday morning to battle the blaze, said Melody Lardner, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

More erratic winds and possible thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day.

The fire, which began Friday afternoon, had burned about 1,500 acres by evening. It was threatening the communities of Smiley Park, Fredalba, Knob Hill and Enchanted Forest, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

In Northern California, firefighters continued to battle a midweek siege of lightning-sparked wildfires, with at least 40 new ones spotted.

Of 228 known wildfires sparked by lightning in the area Wednesday, 51 still burned Friday. The largest — 2,600-acre in Lake County — was 85 percent contained.

California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Karen Terrill said some fires were not being fought because there were too few firefighters. About 4,000 were deployed after the lightning storm swept through.

Oregon crews held off a wildfire yesterday that had earlier jumped containment lines and forced the evacuation of about 300 people from a mountain resort town. The blaze was burning mostly in remote wilderness yesterday as firefighters worked to keep it from spreading into commercial timber areas.

“Our lines have held. The fire never got up and walked,” fire boss Don Ferguson said. “It grew in a place that doesn’t bother us much.”

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze in dense, beetle-ravaged pines.

The fire, estimated at 83,000 acres yesterday, began to worsen late Thursday because of low humidity and high winds, after firefighters had worked for weeks to contain it.

The flare-up forced the evacuation of about 300 people from the resort town of Camp Sherman, about three miles from the fire. Many had been evacuated before, then allowed back into their homes just four days ago.

In Washington, a head-on collision Friday that killed three persons also sparked a wildfire near Chewelah, the Washington State Patrol said. As many as 75 firefighters were working to build a firebreak around the fire, which grew to 300 acres and briefly threatened some rural homes.

In Montana, officials worried that strong winds forecast for the weekend could puff new life into fires around their state as well. Fire-behavior specialists likened this year’s conditions to those during the historic 1910 fires that scorched 3 million acres in Montana and Idaho.

Fires have consumed 666,000 acres in Montana so far this year, and about 80 fires are still active.

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