Wildfire, Burning For 2 Months, Finally Close To Containment

Sunday, September 2nd 2007, 7:18 pm
By: News On 6

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ A wildfire that has been burning for two months in Los Padres National Forest was expected to be fully contained Sunday evening, officials said. Firefighters also were nearing containment on blazes in Idaho and Michigan.

The California fire has burned 375 square miles of wilderness since being ignited by sparks from equipment used to repair a water pipe July 4. It was 97 percent contained late Saturday.

``We expect it will be mopped up,'' by Sunday evening, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Victor Gutierrez said. ``This is great news.''

Higher humidity and cooler weather helped firefighters gain on the fire in recent days. Over 1,300 firefighters and 10 aircraft were still working on the fire Sunday.

Firefighting costs have exceeded $117 million, but the only structure destroyed was an outbuilding. There have been 42 firefighter injuries, mostly minor.

In central Idaho, 19 helicopters were being used to try and finish off a wildfire that last week threatened a ski resort on Bald Mountain and at one time forced the evacuation of 2,500 homes near Ketchum. Winds of up to 35 mph expected late on Sunday had fire managers concerned about potential spot fires staring new blazes, but authorities were still expecting full containment on Monday.

The fire has scorched about 75 square miles since being started by lightning Aug. 16, but no structures have been lost.

In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a wildfire that has burned more than 28 square miles in Luce County was 95 percent contained Sunday, the state Department of Natural Resources said. About 25 firefighters were still working at the fire, believed to have started Aug. 2 with a lightning strike.