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Ventura County

21,600 Acres Later, Wildfire Near Ojai Totally Contained

June 15, 2002|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly two weeks after it began and burned almost 22,000 acres of brittle chaparral and pine in the Ventura County back country, the Wolf fire was declared totally contained Friday night.

At 6 p.m., federal fire officials announced they had a protection line dug around the entire 21,645-acre fire and that mop-up efforts to stomp out any remaining hot spots had begun.

"It was a big fire and a major suppression effort, but that's our job," said Joe Pasinato, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. "But everybody is happy we are seeing some closure, specifically the residents who live in communities around it."

At its peak last week, more than 1,500 county, state and federal firefighters were battling the blaze in Los Padres National Forest, just north of Ojai. By Friday night, that number had been reduced to about 300.

A dozen fixed-wing aircraft that had been used to drop fire retardant were released from service, but three helicopters were going to be used over the weekend to patrol the burned area and douse any flare-ups.

At Soule Park in Ojai, firefighters from dozens of public safety agencies were breaking camp, folding up tents and packing trailers in the mini-city that had served as the command center since the blaze started June 1.

The cause of the Wolf fire--so named because it started near Wolf's Grill on Highway 33--remains under investigation, but authorities are looking into whether people shooting guns near the restaurant may have sparked the blaze.

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