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Thunderstorms Douse Major Fires in Florida

From Associated Press

Long-awaited thunderstorms rumbled across Florida and brought under control all of the major fires that have scorched thousands of acres across the state in the last week, officials said Friday.

Meanwhile, blazes continued to rage in Northern California, charring 4,800 acres.

Firefighters expected to extinguish the biggest of the Florida blazes, which has burned 26,800 acres in Madison County.

“The southern two miles of the Madison fire is the only place where we have any fire-control problems in Florida today,” state Division of Forestry spokesman Paul Wills said. “We have 100 people working on that spot just to make sure it’s completely out before we send everybody home.”

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National Guard helicopters and heavy equipment have been withdrawn, Wills said. All other wildfires in the state, including some started by lightning in southwestern Florida, were under control as of Thursday, he said.

The biggest blaze in southern Florida burned 3,200 acres in Sarasota County. Other fires were reported in Charlotte, Lee, Henry and Manatee counties.

In neighboring Georgia, officials were hopeful of containing a 2,900-acre blaze in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which was also slowed by rains.

However, near Los Padres National Forest in California, firefighters continued to battle two blazes that charred more than 4,800 acres of grassland.

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‘Can’t Get Machines In’

“The fire is located in deep canyons and ravines, making it difficult to contain,” Earl Clayton, Los Padres National Forest spokesman, said. “The area is so rugged we have to fight the fire with manpower. We can’t get machines in.”

About 800 firefighters at Fort Hunter Liggett, 60 miles south of Monterey, were battling a fire that has burned 3,650 acres,

Firefighters extinguished a 1,185-acre fire in the Piney Creek area, 30 miles south of Monterey, Thursday morning. But hours later, flames flared in a 100-acre island of brush.

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“The situation is tenuous,” Don Stacy of the California Department of Forestry said.

Another difficult fire, halfway between Richardson Springs and Chico, burned 1,650 rugged acres before being controlled Thursday, Department of Forestry spokeswoman Nancy Deveaux said.

Firefighters were putting out hot spots remaining from a 270-acre blaze near the Ventana Wilderness along the Big Sur coast, Clayton said.


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