Firefighters gain on Calif. wildfire

Firefightersgain on Calif. wildfire

7 June 2007

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Coleville, California, USA — Firefighters on Thursday reported big gains incontrolling a wildfire that had forced residents to flee this scenic easternSierra Nevada community.

A crew of Hotshots pulls back as a section of the Larson Fire rages, a result of high winds and dry conditions in Coleville, Calif., Tuesday, June 5, 2007. Winds gusting up to 65 mph fanned a Sierra wildfire that forced the evacuation Tuesday of up to 200 people near the California-Nevada line and the closure of a 40-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 395. (AP Photo/The Reno Gazette-Journal, Patrick Cummings)

A shifting wind blew flames back onto themselves, and the fire was 50 percentcontained early Thursday, said fire spokesman Mark Struble.

The blaze’s official size was revised to around 1,000 acres because of moreaccurate mapping.

The fire, which was sparked by lightning last Friday, had been nearlycontained before it was fanned by 65 mph wind gusts and roared back to lifeTuesday.

About 270 people who had to flee the town and a Marine Corps family housingcomplex were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday.

A 40-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 395, a key road along the Sierra front,also reopened Wednesday, though traffic was detoured in the immediate burn area.

The same front that fanned the fire on Tuesday brought colder temperaturesand some moisture to the region, aiding firefighters. Temperatures for the pasttwo nights dropped into the 30s, and snow dusted some foothill areas.

“Once that front blew through, the winds shifted around more out thenorth, and started pushing the fire back into itself,” Struble said.

Air tankers and helicopters that were grounded Tuesday by the fierce windswere back in action Wednesday. More than 600 firefighters remained on the lines.

Fire officials hoped to have the blaze fully contained by Tuesday.

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