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FIREFIGHTERS AIDED BY COOLER WEATHER.

Byline: Jeff Wilson Associated Press

Lower temperatures helped firefighters battling wildfires that blackened nearly 42,000 acres in Los Padres National Forest, and the weather change eased the danger to a Ventura County town.

No homes were threatened in the giant 30,700-acre fire near Santa Maria, but a 10,500-acre blaze in the forest's southeast area was still within 2-1/2 miles of the citrus-growing community of Piru.

It was burning in a northeast direction, however, away from the town.

``If the fire maintains its current path and we can hold, they will be fine,'' U.S. Forest Service spokesman Bill Peters said.

The hamlet's 500 residents remained on alert for a possible evacuation even though the threat had subsided. Temperatures dropped into the 80s, and humidity levels rose with the encroaching coastal overcast.

Resident Sadie Garamilla was still cautious.

``Things can change very quickly, and like I say, you just kind of roll with the punches and let God do the rest,'' she said.

Grocer Moses Hernandez was no longer concerned, but added: ``I'm ready to run!''

Fire crews also were busy in other Western states, including Alaska, Nevada and Washington.

The Southern California blazes broke out Tuesday - the causes are still not determined - as a record-breaking summer heat wave peaked with temperatures soaring well past 100 degrees in many areas.

Some 1,800 firefighters, aided by six water-dropping helicopters and six retardant-dropping air tankers, battled the Piru blaze, which started six miles north of Fillmore about 50 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

``Primarily this is a get-in-your-face fire,'' Peters said. ``It's hand crews, not a lot of fire engines and air support. They are out there with picks and shovels to dig a line around this fire.''

About 80 miles away, in the northwest corner of the forest, more than 1,250 firefighters battled the Santa Maria-area blaze. Five air tankers and nine helicopters made sorties in that siege.

``The marine layer came in last night and really helped out and they were able to really cut in some lines,'' forest service spokesman Tom Wright said.

There were seven minor firefighter injuries on that fire.

No structures were lost or threatened, and there were no evacuations.

It's been a miserable few days for firefighters on both Los Padres National Forest blazes: searing temperatures to 105 degrees, steep terrain, bone-dry undergrowth described as explosive, wasps and poison oak, Wright said.

The weather change Thursday was welcomed, Wright said.

Elsewhere in California, about 150 firefighters battled a 160-acre blaze in steep, rugged terrain just outside of Sequoia National Park.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: Los Angeles city firefighters take a much-needed break after working through the night to battle a brush fire near Piru.

Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 8, 1997
Words:456
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