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Crews gaining ground on fire in Big Bear Lake area

September 19, 2007|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

Firefighters continued to gain ground Tuesday on a blaze threatening a community near Big Bear Lake, as crews braced for a storm expected to hit the area in the coming days.

The Butler 2 fire was 86% contained late Tuesday after igniting west of Fawnskin and burning through rugged forest terrain.

The blaze, which started Friday afternoon and whose cause is still under investigation, has charred a little more than 14,000 acres.

The National Weather Service forecast a cool weather system in the San Bernardino Mountains, with rain and thunderstorms beginning late Thursday.

The storm could either help or hinder the fire crews' progress, said Thom Wadley of the U.S. Forest Service.

"It is a big concern," he said. "If it dumps moisture, that could be a good thing. It there's lightning, that would obviously be bad. There's pros and cons to it."

A mandatory evacuation order for about 1,200 residents of Fawnskin will remain in place for the next three to four days, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lee Bentley. The fire remains about a quarter-mile from the town on the north shore of Big Bear Lake.

Firefighters are committing most of their resources to the area, trying to complete a break line between the town and the fire before the storm hits.

"We've made a whole lot of progress," Bentley said. "The winds stayed calm, air resource has been dropping a lot of water and retardant, and the crews have done a lot of good, hard work."

Temperatures today are expected to range from the 40s to the mid-70s, with winds continuing from the southwest between 10 mph and 15 mph and gusts of up to 25 mph, Bentley said.

In the meantime, the Angel Fire, which has burned more than 900 acres east of Julian in San Diego County, is expected to be contained this evening and controlled by Thursday, said Audrey Hagen of the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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