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Western Wildfires: North Carolina Crews Enabled by Break in Weather

Aired August 30, 2000 - 1:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Crews took advantage of break in the weather this morning as they fought a huge wildfire in North Dakota. The Jasper fire has burned 70,000 acres in the Black Hills National Forest. It's supposed to get drier and windier there tonight. This is one of 85 big wildfires burning about 1.6 million acres of land across the West and in Florida.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is in Hamilton, Montana today with the latest on efforts there to make a dent in the fires.

Rusty, what's happening?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, you know, there are microclimates in areas like Montana. Now, they're predicting cooler temperatures and some rainfall this week. But in the area we are in in the Bitterroot Valley, it's actually warmer today and they are expecting some significant winds later this afternoon.

But usually what happens in this fire behavior is the fire sort of what they call "lays down" overnight. It calms down with the cooler temperatures and then kicks up again in the afternoon.

Now, yesterday afternoon, some North Carolina firefighters were digging a trench to try to stop the advance of a fire that was torching some trees up to 40, 50 feet high and trying to get a line and stop the advance of that fire.

Now, they're, of course, always looking for safety zones to escape from should the wind shift. And they have lookouts and that sort of thing because, obviously, it's very dangerous work when you're working that close to the flames and that close to the fire.

So, in this case, it looks like the firefighters were able to get a trench around that flank of the fire and were able to stop the advance there.

Now, as I said, it's supposed to be warmer today here with more winds, and the winds are picking up, but we're getting more of a cloud buildup that we haven't seen in a while in this area. So there is that promise of rain by this weekend. It's just a little bit of a controversy on how much. Some people are saying maybe a half inch, others are saying maybe three inches. Whatever, it will help firefighters to dampen these fires. Rusty Dornin, reporting live in Hamilton, Montana.

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