Fall damps fires of '94


The arrival of autumn rain and snow brought relief to the West's firefighters. The summer of 1994 has been the most intense fire season in memory, according to the federal fire center in Boise, Idaho. Nationwide, 3.9 million acres burned this year, nearly twice the yearly average from 1989 to 1993. It was not the most destructive or costly year in history, however; more acres burned as recently as 1990. And in 1988, the year of the Yellowstone fires, 5 million acres burned. But this season put firefighters on constant high alert and led to the most fatalities since 1910, when government firefighting efforts were less organized, says the fire center's Pat Entwistle. Twenty-seven people died in forest fires this year, including 14 in the South Canyon blowup near Glenwood Springs, Colo. (HCN, 7/25/94). Altogether, some 34,000 fires charred the West, with three of the largest in Idaho. The largest, the 172,000-acre Corral/Blackwire Fire on the Payette National Forest, was only contained by late October, with the help of rain and snow. The Forest Service and Interior Department spent an estimated $875 million to combat this year's blazes.

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