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Western Wildfires: Crews Making Progress With Cooler Weather, Careful PlanningAired August 22, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Cooler weather allowed crews to get a handle on several western wildfires in the past 24 hours, but they still have their hands full. In Northern California, more than 20,000 acres of the Plumas National Forest are burning. The smoke is making it hard for people to breathe. At least 79 big fires are burning in nine western states; 1.4 million acres are in flames.
Some of the biggest and most threatening fires are in Montana. The governor is considering declaring more public land off-limits to reduce the fire threat. In the meantime, more military personnel are headed to Montana to join the firefighting effort.
CNN's Greg Lefevre joins us from Darby with the latest about that -- Greg.
GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And these cool mornings are indeed giving the firefighters that very needed break that they want to try to get ahead of some of the fires and get a better handle on some of the fires here in the western mountains of Montana.
In the Valley complex, the fires that very nearly encircle this valley, 154,000 acres have burned. They are only -- the fires are only about 15 percent contained. The most dangerous of these fires is the Razor fire, which is still a problem because there is a tremendous amount of low brush and scrub and grass at the bottoms of canyons that the fire is moving toward. That will create some very difficult upper drafts for firefighters and may cause the fires to make some runs up some canyons.
With only 944 personnel available to these fires, there's a delicate balance that fire bosses have to maintain to assign what man, what women, what equipment to which fire because there is no one to spare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE MOTCHALL, CALIFORNIA INTERAGENCY MGMT. TEAM: We have to look at the terrain, we have to see what the fire's doing, correlate that to the weather. In a nutshell, we got all kinds of tools we use. We've got bulldozers, we have hand crews, we have engines, we got sprinkler systems. So the issue is what goes where and how much of it. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEFEVRE: Some of that planning goes all the way down to, How big is a water tanker? How much water will it carry? How big, physically, is it? Can it make it up some of the canyon roads? Also, firefighters have to look at how many men and women they can put aboard a particular bus. Will that bus fit down some of the canyons? How much fuel is in the tanks of these vehicles so that, if they have to go out for two or three or four days at a time, will they be able to make it back?
Minute-by-minute planning is helping these firefighter get a handle on some of the blazes around here. So far, the gross number of fires here in the U.S. has moved from 80 -- from 87 down to 80, a little bit of advance on a very bad fire season.
Greg Lefevre, CNN, reporting live in Darby, Montana.
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