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Firefighters Try To Complete Circle Around 26,800-Acre Blaze

June 11, 1985

Undated (AP) _ Firefighters reported progress Tuesday in efforts to corral a 26,800- acre, six-day-old fire in northern Florida, while a swamp fire threatened a Georgia state park, lightning fires burned New Mexico forests and brush fires burned in central California.

Movement of the 13-mile-long, five-mile-wide fire near Madison, Fla., was stalled and Larry Amison of the state Division of Foresty said firefighters were struggling to plow lines around the southwest corner.

″It is not threatening to break out but we won’t feel safe until we have good lines around the whole thing,″ he said.

About 150 people fought the fire. Members of local volunteer fire departments who had helped were allowed to return home Monday, but were asked to remain nearby in case the wind shifted or the fire intensified.

The blaze, which was started last Wednesday by lightning, was not under control. However, it posed no threat to homes in the sparsely populated area and no injuries were reported.

Northeast of that fire, near Fargo, Ga., a fire had burned at least 3,000 acres of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refugee and firefighters used bulldozers and aircraft to keep it out of the Stephen Foster State Park. It also is believed to have been started by lightning.

A tanker plane from Tallahassee dumped loads of fire retardant chemicals as the flames inched toward cabins, trailers and other facilities at the 80-acre state park in the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp near the Florida border.

″It’s generally been fairly quiet there today. There is still no estimate of containment,″ said Public Affairs Officer Bruce Jewell in Atlanta.

In New Mexico, authorities said Tuesday that lightning had triggered at least 23 fires in the Gila National Forest and that the largest blaze, started by lightning on June 1, has blackened about 800 acres of grass, brush and some pine trees.

Firefighters tried to contain the 800-acre blaze between roads and natural barriers such as canyons and streams, said Cliff Claridge, a dispatcher at the forest.

Firefighters also battled a blaze that had swept through 400 acres, Claridge said. The other fires were as small as one-tenth or one-quarter of an acre, he said.

After weekend lightning, ″we had some pretty high winds yesterday - 25 miles an hour or better. It kicked things up a little bit,″ Claridge said.

In Monterey County, Calif., nearly 1,000 firefighters worked on three brush fires burning out of control Tuesday. They included a 2,100-acre blaze that started as a ″controlled burn″ on a military reservation but was caught by winds that pushed it toward Los Padres National Forest.

″There’s really heavy vegetation where the fire is burning. Containment is a real tough problem,″ said officer Don Stacy of the state Department of Foresty.

Despite its size, the blaze that started Monday at Fort Hunter Liggett, 60 miles south of Monterey, was the least dangerous of the three, according to Los Padres spokesman Earl Clayton. ″It’s in open country and does not pose a threat to life or property,″ he said.

The other fires, a 577-acre blaze 35 miles south of Monterey and a 300-acre fire 25 miles south of Monterey, required more immediate use of firefighters and equipment, he said. A mobile home was destroyed by the smaller fire; one fireman suffered a foot injury.

Elsewhere in Florida, the biggest problem outside of Madison County was a 2,000-acre brushfire in Sarasota County, near Bradenton. Amison said it jumped lines Monday. Firefighters worked through the night to plow fire lines and Amison said the blaze was ″shakily contained″ Monday.

He said several small fires were started by lightning in the Lakeland, Bradenton and Bunnell areas, but remained small because of rain that accompanied the storms.