September 22, 2002 11:00 pm

WALLOWA — "The rain really helped us out, and shortened this thing up," said Nick Lunde, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

Half the fire crews that worked the fire six miles southwest of Wallowa were sent home Friday and the remainder left Saturday, he said.

Up to 270 people had worked three to four days on the 320-acre Anniversary Fire, which received about two-thirds an inch of rain.

With some stumps still smoking, the fire will be on patrol status until no more smoke is detected, Lunde said.

Control burns began Sunday on 1,200 acres on the Upper Imnaha River. The area has high hazard fuels that need to be eliminated, officials said.

With a favorable forecast for a week, the U.S. Forest Service wants to get as much fall burning done as possible during this window of opportunity, officials said.

The next area for prescribed burning would probably be the Red Hill Lookout area between Starvation Ridge and Davis Creek. After that would probably be the Thomason Meadows area, they said.