Wildfire danger closes parts of California’s Los Padres forest

Wildfire danger closes parts of California’sLos Padres forest

28 July 2006

published by http://www.mercurynews.com/

GOLETA, Calif. – Areas of California’s vast Los Padres National Forest were ordered closed indefinitely because of danger from wildfires.

They are part of a summer siege of wildland blazes up and down the state, mostly ignited by lightning.

In Los Padres National Forest, about 375 square miles of land that included at least six campgrounds, an off-road vehicle trail and deer hunting territory were ordered closed Thursday.

No evacuations were necessary, the U.S. Forest Service said.

“I haven’t taken this decision lightly,” forest Supervisor Gloria Brown said in a statement from the Los Padres office in Goleta. “I’m very concerned about the fires’ potential to spread rapidly. If that were to occur, it would be impossible to get people out in time.”

The forest sprawls northwest of Los Angeles to near Monterey Bay. The closures affected two areas in Kern and Santa Barbara counties.

The largest blaze in the forest was the 4,500-acre, or seven-square-mile, Bald fire, on Sierra Madre Ridge in Santa Barbara County. Bulldozers and crews were cutting lines to prevent it from moving north.

The fire was 30 percent contained.

“It’s real steep, nasty country, old, thick brush,” said Maeton Freel of the Forest Service. “It’s going to be a slow operation, at best.”

Portions of the fire were inside a wilderness area where crews were forbidden to use chain saws or other mechanical equipment without special permission, he said.

However, temperatures were in the 90s instead of the 100s and winds had been fairly calm.

“That’s helping out,” Freel said.

Although heat was less intense in recent days, humidity still made it dangerous and exhausting for fire crews.

Sticky weather makes it harder for firefighters to sweat and puts them at greater risk of heat exhaustion, said Roxanne Provaznik of the California Department of Forestry.

The Bald fire was one of at least two dozen caused by lightning in the past week in the forest. The Mount Pinos complex of about seven fires had burned 3,179 acres, or about five square miles. That included the 736-acre Scott blaze near the town of Frazier Park. It was 85 percent surrounded.

Numerous fires were burning in Northern California, many sparked by lightening.

A fire scorching 340 acres northeast of McCloud threatened power transmission lines between California and the Pacific Northwest, though grid operators said they could reroute electricity. It was 10 percent contained.

A 1,200-acre fire southwest of Lake Shastina forced the temporary evacuation of more than 100 residents Wednesday night. It was 75 percent contained. A 225-acre fire near Shasta Lake threatened 50 homes.

At the south end of the state, a wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest was 50 percent contained. The fire about 50 miles east of San Diego was at 16,698 acres, or about 27 square miles and holding, thanks to humidity and lower temperatures.

About 1,600 people remained on the firelines. Nineteen were treated for heat exhaustion or injuries since Sunday, when the blaze erupted in heavy brush.

It was caused when a campfire set by illegal immigrants got out of control, authorities said.

In Death Valley National Park, a 2,800-acre fire continued to burn 15 miles west of Shoshone and a 2,000-acre fire was burning near Beatty, Nev., park spokesman Terry Baldino said.

“It’s pretty much burning itself out,” Baldino said of the larger blaze.

A lightning blaze east of San Ardo in southeastern Monterey County was fully contained Thursday. The fire started Saturday and grew to 14,500 acres, equal to 22.6 square miles. Thirteen firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Meanwhile, about 40 firefighters battled a remaining portion of a 23,917-acre, or 37-square-mile, fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. The Millard-Heart complex was 75 percent contained.


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