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Southern Calif. wildfire advancing post #1  quote:



Southern Calif. wildfire advancing

By CHRISTINA ALMEIDA, Associated Press Writer

YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. - Firefighters dug in for another day of blistering heat Thursday as they struggled to keep a string of desert wildfires from spreading toward the mountain resort community of Big Bear Lake.

The lightning-sparked flames had already destroyed nearly 100 homes and other structures and chased about 1,000 people from Rimrock, Burns Canyon, Gamma Gulch, Flamingo Heights, Little Morongo Canyon and the Wild West movies community of Pioneertown, officials said.

"We're talking about steep hills that make progress by hand crews and engines slow and difficult," San Marcos Fire Battalion Chief Rick Vogt told CNN Thursday morning. "That, combined with the weather, makes it a challenging fire."

A 37,000-acre blaze threatening Pioneertown was one of several fires started by dry lightning that moved through the area earlier this week, Vogt said.

Fire officials worried that if the fires continued west toward the San Bernardino National Forest, they could grow rapidly in the steep terrain and get dangerously close to Big Bear Lake, a community of summer lake and winter ski resorts and about 5,500 residents.

A severe bark beetle infestation has killed many trees in recent years, and that would fuel the flames.

"If it starts in there it will be almost impossible to stop," said California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Karen Guillemin.

At least 42 houses, 55 other buildings and 91 vehicles have burned in around the high desert communities about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, authorities said. Most of the historic buildings that made Pioneertown famous, old west saloons and storefronts that once were props for movie cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, were spared.

Temperatures hit 108 degrees Wednesday as 2,500 firefighters attacked flames devouring Joshua trees, pinon pines and brush in hills and canyons. Highs in the 100s are forecast for the Pioneertown area through the weekend, with winds 5 to 15 mph. Higher up at Big Bear Lake, temperatures in the mid-80s were forecast for Thursday.

North of Yucca Valley, a blanket of smoke darkened the sky over the Mojave Desert.

In the Gamma Gulch area, dead animals littered a property where a home and barn burned. Eight firefighters and two civilians were treated for minor burns or smoke inhalation.

Residents watched nervously in Morongo Valley, where large ranch homes are surrounded by highly combustible greasewood and Joshua trees, pinon pines and brush.

Elsewhere in the West, several new wildfires in southern Montana spread quickly ? one to an estimated 10,000 acres ? because of windy weather.

At least one house on the Crow Indian Reservation was reported destroyed by a blaze estimated at 4,500 acres, said Jon Kohn, an information officer for the Crow Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs' Forestry division.

There also was a 3,150-acre wildfire west of Columbus, and another burning north of Pompeys Pillar that was estimated at 10,000 acres, said Mary Apple, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Land Management.

Wildfires have burned more than 4 million acres nationwide, almost twice the 10-year average for this time of year, according to National Interagency Fire Center.

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Old Post 07-13-2006 05:02 PM
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post #2  quote:

In the morning the first thing I see is a mountain covered in smoke and I'm like 50 miles away or so. It's bad. This is the shortcut we take to go to Vegas, takes off like an hour. Poor people up there.

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Old Post 07-13-2006 05:07 PM
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post #3  quote:

Damn... fire season is definately here, and roaring to go. I hope that they can get that out.

Old Post 07-13-2006 05:35 PM
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post #4  quote:

Calif. wildfires grow closer to merging

YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. - Firefighters battling a massive blaze at the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest feared it could merge Friday with another and become even more difficult to control.

The 53,000-acre wildfire, which had destroyed more than 150 homes and buildings in Southern California's high desert, was within a half-mile of an 8,300-acre fire in the national forest, authorities said at a morning briefing for firefighters. Together, they have charred the equivalent of more than 95 square miles ? about twice the size of San Francisco.

"The fires are very close together ... it's likely that (merging of the fires) will occur today," said Rick Vogt, a spokesman for the firefighting effort.

The result could be a large, unpredictable fire that could create its own weather patterns, said Glenn Barley, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry. "It can make for strong, erratic winds," he said.

The area between the blazes was mostly unpopulated, and a large firebreak had been built between the fire and the mountain resort communities of Big Bear Lake, officials said. But a combined blaze could create a dangerous situation for firefighters.

"You've got 100-foot-tall trees, and those are kind of like a torch," said forest spokeswoman Robin Prince.

The larger fire was 20 percent contained but was burning through dense, dead brush in a desert canyon land that has not burned in decades, authorities said. The smaller fire, which was threatening about 75 homes, was burning brush and timber at higher elevations and was just 5 percent contained.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County on Thursday to provide immediate state aid to fire officials and set the stage for a federal disaster-funding request, said Eric Lamoureux, a state Emergency Services spokesman.

Dozens of homes in the Morongo Valley were ordered evacuated as flames crept down a hill a few miles away. Some residents stayed behind, their possessions in their cars, as they monitored the shifting wind.

"Are we nervous? Yes. Will we stay up tonight? Yes," said Pam Bennett-Wallberg, whose 2 1/2-acre ranch serves as a refuge for African meerkats.

Swaths of Southern California forests have been weakened by drought and bark beetles. For years, workers have been cutting down dead trees near communities and roads to remove the potential fire hazard. Thousands of acres have been cleared but experts say it will take up to 20 years to remove all the dead wood.

The largest fire was ignited by lightning during the weekend and roared into an inferno Tuesday, racing through tiny, high-desert communities. Forty-five houses, 118 other buildings and 91 vehicles were destroyed in the movie Western community of Pioneertown and other towns near Yucca Valley.

Firefighters in southern Montana, mostly east of Billings, were battling large blazes totaling an estimated 90,000 acres, or nearly 140 square miles. The estimate nearly tripled overnight because of rapid fire growth and better information, fire information officer Paula Rosenthal said.

More than 200 structures, more than 80 of them homes, were threatened by two of the fires, and another blaze near Ashland destroyed at least one house. Firefighters were close Friday to containing a wildfire that destroyed four buildings earlier this week.

Elsewhere, crews were working late Thursday to contain a wildfire near Abilene, Texas, that had scorched 500 acres, forced the evacuation of a dozen homes and threatened to burn about 50 large wind turbines. Lightning also sparked fires in Wyoming on Thursday, including one that burned about 3,000 acres just west of Devils Tower.
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Old Post 07-14-2006 06:59 PM
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post #5  quote:

You guys have no idea what this looks like. It's insane. I am nowhere near Yucca, far far away actually but I can still see the mountain covered in smoke and flames, that's how big it is. Last night I saw the two fires coming at each other. This is a lot worse than people think.

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Old Post 07-14-2006 07:01 PM
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fuscia is Away
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post #6  quote:

We had the wildfires a few years back that took most of Crest out in flames. San Diego was covered by ash and the sky was orange and brown. Very freaky/scary stuff. I hope they get control of the fire soon.

Old Post 07-14-2006 07:55 PM
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