August 17, 2001 11:00 pm
NIGHT FIRE: This shot was taken around midnight Thursday at Fall Creek above the Coe Cabin, which was the old Jacobs place seven miles down river from the town of Imnaha. The fire is now about 4,000 acres. (GINA GOSSMAN photo).
NIGHT FIRE: This shot was taken around midnight Thursday at Fall Creek above the Coe Cabin, which was the old Jacobs place seven miles down river from the town of Imnaha. The fire is now about 4,000 acres. (GINA GOSSMAN photo).

MONUMENT (AP) Winds firefighters feared might fan flames and cause evacuation of this ranching town of 150 havent developed, giving weary fire crews a much-needed stroke of good luck.

However, more homes and businesses remained threatened in Washington.

Crews used iron picks to strip flaming bark from trees and to bury smoldering sagebrush as the flames crept within a few miles of homes in Monument.

Fire officials had feared a gusty cold front would send the 21,000-acre fire and others burning across the West roaring toward homes.

But Friday evening it looks less and less likely that Monument will have to be evacuated.

Tim Birr, a spokesman for the Monument fire effort, said Friday, Were feeling better than we did 24 hours ago. Were in good shape this evening. The forestry crews did a good job today in burning out some areas and creating more buffer space between the fire and the town.

Spokesman Clyde Zeller, who was out on the fire lines, said, At this point it looks unlikely that we will need an evacuation of Monument. He said projected 25 mph winds expected to accompany a cold front have failed to develop. The winds are giving us a break, he said. Its erratic but not as strong as I thought

Some 22,650 firefighters are fighting 33 major fires burning on 584,541 acres in the West, the National Interagency Fire Center said Friday.

Marine and Army battalions have been called up to assist the firefighters, who are toiling in sweltering heat and rugged terrain. Both battalions will be sent to wildfires in Washington state.

The North Carolina Air National Guard said Friday it is sending three C-130 cargo aircraft and crews to Boise, Idaho, to assist the U.S. Forest Service. Two of the aircraft will operate modules that spray 3,000 gallons of fire retardant.

It looks like a war zone out there, said Polly Wharfield, a fire information officer in southern Oregon, where the Quartz fire was burning across 5,800 acres near the California border.

The big fires were in the high desert of northern and eastern Oregon, where tinder-dry sagebrush and juniper fueled flames.

A fire threatening Monument, a ranching town of 150, doubled overnight, growing to 21,000 acres Friday, but the town remained untouched. The fire was 10 percent contained.

The 800 firefighters at Monument were scraping and burning a perimeter around the town hoping to deprive the fire of fuel and keep it from getting so close to homes that they could be rained upon by falling embers.

In the air, twin-rotor helicopters emptied 1,100-gallon water buckets onto the flames.

Fire trucks were parked next to homes that could be the first to be threatened by fire.

Ten major fires were burning on 270,000 acres in Oregon.

The Bridge Creek fire, north of the Monument fire, had nearly doubled in size to 9,000 acres and was threatening 33 residences Friday night. The Lakeview complex was at 127,550 acres and 25 percent contained. It had been reported as being much larger but managers say it is not unusual to reduce estimates as better burn maps become available.

A 60-acre fire was burning in Crater Lake National Park, but posed no threats.

Some 250 members of the Oregon National Guard arrived at the Quartz fire, southeast of Ashland, to lend a hand to 2,000 firefighters and other personnel. Another group headed to the Monument complex of fires Friday.

More than 70,000 acres were burning in Washington state.

Residents in as many as 1,900 homes were warned their property may be in the path of a wildfire near Leavenworth, a popular north Cascades tourist town. Fires prompted officials to order some homes, cabins and backcountry areas to be evacuated. Twelve hikers were airlifted to safety.

There were some victories. In Nevada, where fires have blackened more than 290,000 acres, the 92,000-acre Buffalo complex was nearly contained. Northern Californias largest blaze, a fire 50 miles north of Susanville, was contained at 67,700 acres and some of the 900 firefighters were being demobilized.