Weather Aids Firefighters in N. California

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From Times staff and wire reports

After nearly a week of battling wildfires across several Northern California counties, firefighters finally began getting the upper hand Friday, aided by the absence of new lightning strikes that had ignited many of the blazes several days ago.

“We’ve made progress,” said Jolene DeGroot, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, noting that firefighters were close to containment on the 10 major blazes still burning in Northern California.

Officials cautioned that major eruptions could again occur “depending on the weather,” though the forecast was favorable, with no thunderstorms expected over the weekend.


On Friday, breezes finally cleared the air of the thick blanket of smoke that clouded a 200-mile swath of the Central Valley for several days and caused authorities to warn residents against participating in outdoor activities.

The wildfires have scorched more than 80,000 acres of grass, brush and timber in Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Shasta, Tuolumne, Lassen and Modoc counties, and in the Shasta-Trinity, Lassen, Klamath, Plumas, Modoc, Stanislaus and Angeles national forests.

Gov. Gray Davis, who on Thursday declared fire emergencies in Butte, Tehama, Tuolumne and Shasta counties, asked President Clinton on Friday to declare a federal emergency in the four counties. A federal emergency declaration would allow California to request direct assistance from federal agencies in fighting the fires.