Firefighters who have contained most of the lightning fires that destroyed nearly 600,000 acres of California brush and timber raced against high winds Monday to complete a line around the remaining blazes.
Winds up to 35 m.p.h. were expected to last through Wednesday, carrying with them the potential to fan flames and boost sparks past containment lines, said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Fontana. No rain was expected.
The fires had been touched off mostly by lightning in hot, dry weather, beginning in late August. And they have burned more than 734,000 acres in 10 Western states. Hardest hit has been California, where the U.S. Forest Service boosted the estimated acreage destroyed to 536,471 in the northern part of the state and 60,152 in the south.
In the Klamath National Forest, where 150,000 acres have burned, fires over 2,800 acres remained out of control, but most of the blazes were contained. About 8,000 firefighters worked to finish circling 40,000 acres of flames with a containment line.
Fresh Crews Arriving
"Fresh crews are coming in from areas already contained and that should make the work go quicker," said Bill Terry, an information officer with the Texas Forest Service who came to California to help. "Things are going much better," he said. But he added, "If conditions worsen, it could go the other way very quickly."
In the Shasta-Trinity national forests, 79,250 acres have burned. The largest blaze in that area, the Limedyke complex covering 24,000 acres, was 85% contained Monday with complete containment expected today, said Kathy Gillette of the U.S. Forest Service.
In Southern California, all the fires were declared fully contained Monday morning, said Sharon Stewart of the U.S. Forest Service in Riverside. The last of them was a 5,120-acre fire, the result of arson, in the Cleveland National Forest. Ten firefighters were injured battling the blaze.
Though the 29,400-acre Silver Complex fires continued to burn out of control through the Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, the 650 soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, Calif., were no longer needed to build fire lines, said Pauline McGinty, fire information officer.