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Residents of Piru Still Poised to Flee Blaze

Wildfires: Lightning is blamed for two other blazes in Lassen Volcanic National Park and Sequoia National Forest, where crews are attempting to protect giant trees.

August 10, 1997| From Associated Press

PIRU, Calif. — Four wildfires burned in wilderness areas throughout California on Saturday while neighborhoods and ranches in the shadow of one fire stood ready to flee if necessary.

The 18,900-acre fire near Lake Piru in Ventura County was one of two burning in Los Padres National Forest northwest of Los Angeles. The other, 20 miles east of Santa Maria along the Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo county line, burned 58,000 acres and was 62% contained.

Firefighters were also battling lightning-sparked blazes in Sequoia National Forest, 200 miles north of Los Angeles, and Lassen Volcanic National Park in the northeastern corner of the state.

Piru's 1,000 residents remained on alert to evacuate, a day after the fire incinerated a garage and boat south of town.

Firefighters halted the fire before it damaged an adjacent home, said Mary Guokas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The region is also home to citrus and avocado ranches.

More than 1,900 firefighters, aided by 11 water-dropping helicopters, battled the Piru blaze. Five firefighters were injured. Firefighters also set fires to deprive the blaze of fuel as it burned land owned by the Forest Service and unincorporated property in Ventura County.

In Sequoia National Forest, crews battled to keep the blaze in the Monarch Wilderness Area at elevations above 6,000 feet to protect the park's giant sequoia trees. It had spread to 2,100 acres Saturday.

"The fire is burning at an elevation where you won't find any giant sequoias," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Marty Schramm. "So far, it appears we will keep it that way."

In the northeastern corner of the state, light winds and cooling temperatures helped firefighters get a foothold on a 1,300-acre blaze burning wilderness in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The blaze was 5% contained Saturday. No structures were threatened, said Scott Issacson, a park spokesman.

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