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Raging Wildfires Portend Busy, Dangerous Summer

June 30, 2008

By Marcus Wohlsen Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Firefighters in northern California battled more than a thousand wildfires to a stalemate by Sunday, but forecasters said dangerous conditions would not relent anytime soon.

No new major fires had broken out Sunday as fire crews inched closer to getting some of the largest blazes surrounded, according to the state Office of Emergency Services.

But a “red-flag warning” — meaning the most extreme fire danger – - was still in effect for northern California until 5 a.m. today. And the coming days and months are expected to bring little relief.

Forecasters predicted more thunderstorms and dry lightning through the weekend, similar to the ones that ignited hundreds of fires a week ago. Meanwhile, a U.S. Forest Service report said the weather would get even drier and hotter as fire season headed toward its traditional peak in late July and August.

Lower-than-average rainfall and record levels of parched vegetation likely mean a long, fiery summer throughout northern California, according to the Forest Service’s state fire outlook released last week.

The fires burning now could take weeks or months to bring under full control, the report said.

Those blazes were mostly sparked by lightning storms that were unusually intense for so early in the season. But summer storms would probably be even fiercer, according to the Forest Service.

The blazes have scorched more than 550 square miles and destroyed more than 50 buildings, said Gregory Renick, state emergency services spokesman.

(c) 2008 Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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