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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 25, 2001 - Issue 43


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Apache Crew Saves Washington State Town From Fire


 by Bruce Olson-Reuters News-August 20, 2001


Photos Reuters/Pool

PORTLAND, Ore. - Apache firefighters from Arizona worked all night to protect a Washington state tourist mecca from a forest fire that was one of 34 major blazes raging in the U.S. West on Sunday.

The Icicle fire, which had advanced to within three miles of Leavenworth on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range on Saturday, was surrounded by a 20-member crew from White River, Arizona, who sharply reduced the threat to about 200 homes.

That fire crackled across 6,500 acres and was part of an active fire total of nearly 400,000 acres in nine states, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho said.

Eleven new fires were reported, including one in Yosemite National Park in California. It broke out 10 miles southeast of Yosemite Village and was burning about 850 acres.

The biggest fire the West has seen this month, the Lakeview blaze in southern Oregon, was fully contained on Sunday, stopped at more than 125,000 acres.

The biggest fire not yet halted was the 75,000-acre Spaulding Canyon fire, 30 miles southwest of Winnemucca, Nevada. The fire was about 75 percent contained and crews were making "excellent progress'' despite strong winds, the fire center said.

More than 26,000 firefighters were deployed on the ground across the West, including about 750 firefighters near Leavenworth. The town, located about 100 miles west of Seattle, has about 10,000 residents and is built to look like a Bavarian village.

The crews, supported by two helicopters dropping water, managed a 30-mile fire break around the blaze.

"A hotshot Apache crew succeeded in building a large containment line. It's much cooler up here today, so we are hopeful it will hold,'' spokeswoman Joan Frazee said.

"Everything is fine in the town. There wasn't a hotel room to be found last night,'' she added.

Whitecaps on nearby Lake Chelan indicated the gusty nature of the wind that drove nine fires in Washington state, where over 100,000 acres were burning on Sunday.

With firefighters getting a handle on the Icicle fire, the next toughest hotspot appeared to be the Spruce Springs/Dome complex fire, about 30 miles west of Yakima on the eastern slope of the Cascades near Mount Rainier.

Residents of scattered cabins in the region have been evacuated and the fire center said parts of two battalions of U.S. Army and Marine troops now being trained in Idaho could be deployed into the Spruce Springs area by the end of the week.

"We are right at the maximum number of firefighters now,'' fire center spokesman Arnold Hartigan said. "Progress is being made but things are still critical in Washington.''

In Oregon, where eight fires covered 105,000 acres, firefighters continued to make progress. At the site of the Monument fire, which last week threatened a small central Oregon town, winds remained calm.


Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who flew by helicopter into the Monument fire area, about 125 miles west of Portland, said: "We aren't out of this by a long shot.''

He said "wildfires are part of a healthy ecosystem'' and called on the White House to work with private and public concerns to improve the health of the forests in the Pacific Northwest.

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling the Monument blaze, which covered more than 28,000 acres of parched scrub pine and high-desert country.

In total, the eight Oregon fires raged over more than 105,000 acres.

There have been no injuries in the latest outbreak of fires, but last month four firefighters were killed in an eastern Washington blaze, near Winthrop, also on the eastern slope of the Cascades.

Blistering heat, high winds and dry thunderstorms have made for a particularly tough fire season with 55,819 fires so far this year compared to 68,743 for all of last year.

  Maps by Travel

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