- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

AGNESS, Ore. (AP) Things had calmed down a bit along Oak Flat and the nearby town of Agness, a resort and fishing village on southern Oregon's Rogue River. Homeowners, told to evacuate Thursday, were watching the glow of a massive wildfire burning nearby and hoping for the best.
Then, within an hour Saturday afternoon, the northwest flank of the fire exploded. White and brown plumes of smoke billowed 20,000 to 30,000 feet into the air. The "thwop, thwop, thwop" of heavy-lift helicopters filled the normally placid skies above the river.
People grew more nervous by the hour.
"Normally, it's pretty stress-free living," said Gayle Soule, owner of the Old Agness Store.
"When you go to sleep at night and you hear helicopters and firetrucks " Miss Soule said, her voice trailing off.
These days, stress has filled the lives of those in the path of Oregon's largest wildfire in a century and the largest fire burning in North America.
Yesterday, 435,654 acres had burned and more than 6,500 people were fighting the blaze, including 470 Canadians, 39 Australians and nine fire managers from New Zealand. The fire was 35 percent contained.
Crews gained ground on the fire's northwestern flank yesterday as they finished burning a fire line around Agness. With good wind conditions holding, they were expected to next conduct burnouts along the fire's western side near Pistol River and Gardner Ranch, where residents were under a pre-evacuation notice, fire officials said.
The flames have been eating through the forests of southwest Oregon since July 13, when a lightning storm moved through the area. The blaze is known as the Biscuit Fire, but some residents have taken to calling it "the Beast."
The fire has burned over much of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area in the Siskiyou National Forest and into northwest California, and it is now threatening homes and businesses in Agness, Ilahe, Oak Flat, upper Pistol River, upper Chetco River, Cave Junction, O'Brien and Selma.
Yesterday, it was one of about two dozen major active fires in the West, where more than 5.7 million acres had burned this summer. New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have suffered their biggest wildfires on record, said fire information officer Peter D'Aquanni.

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