End in sight for this round of Calif. wildfires

End in sight for this round of Calif. wildfires

23 July 2008

published by ap.google.com

USA — Officials reported progress Tuesday with California’s remaining 33 blazes — down from more than 2,000 in the past month — although fire danger remained high in some rural areas.

In Trinity County, about 170 miles northwest of Sacramento, the outlying neighborhoods of Junction City are still under evacuation orders with a large wildfire less than a mile away from the town of about 800, said Mike Johnson, a spokesman with the National Park Service. That fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was about 60 percent contained after burning 93 square miles.

Flames around Northern California have led to a handful of evacuations and are contributing to air quality problems. Dense smoke has been creating unhealthy air that will likely turn hazardous in Trinity, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties this week, said Dimitri Stanich, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

“People need to seek shelter and avoid exposure,” Stanich said. “These levels are damaging even to healthy people.”

State officials plan to turn gymnasiums and other buildings in all three counties into shelters equipped with air filters, he said.

Wildfires burning since June 21 have scorched 1,528 square miles across the state and destroyed 122 homes.

In many parts of the state, lower temperatures and higher humidity have aided firefighters, including those in the Los Padres National Forest near the coast, where a widespread blaze was 72 percent contained Tuesday. The fire has blackened 216 square miles and burned 26 homes around Big Sur.

“Things are really starting to look good,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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