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Weather Holds Back Wildfires

September 09, 2003|From Associated Press

CAMP SHERMAN, Ore. — About 300 residents who were evacuated from this resort community because of a wildfire were allowed to return home Monday after rain and cooler weather helped firefighters.

Camp Sherman residents were asked not to walk or drive in areas burned by the wildfire, and nonresidents were still banned.

"They need to be cautious," said Jeree Mills, fire spokeswoman. "There's a lot of things that are dangerous that people don't see, like holes and snags and things."

Residents were ordered out of their homes Friday for a second time when two fires merged into one and jumped containment lines. Residents had earlier been evacuated for a 10-day stretch.

But rain and cooler weather helped more than 2,350 firefighters get an upper hand Monday, said David Widmark, spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The fires have burned 90,367 acres and are 50% contained, he said.

Cold fronts also helped firefighters in other areas of the Northwest and the Northern Rockies.

In Montana, fire managers said scattered rain and cooler temperatures arrived without high winds that had been feared.

Montana's 18 major fires or fire complexes have burned more than 650,000 acres this season. Fire information officer Ricardo Zuniga of the Northern Rockies Interagency Information Center cautioned that the fire season will not be over until much more significant rain or snow arrives.

"Nobody here is talking about an end to the fire season," he said.

In Washington state, nearly half an inch of rain fell in some areas, slowing fire growth and allowing crews to strengthen lines. That also allowed managers to cancel an evacuation order for residents of about 75 homes nearest a 24,500-acre fire in north-central Washington's upper Methow Valley, said Greg Thayer, a firefighters' spokesman.

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