Smoke clears, but fire grows

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By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

While shifting winds cleared smoke out of the foothills yesterday, they also pushed flames across another 500 acres in a fire burning in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest.

Growth of the burn, dubbed the Kibbie Complex Fire, prompted fire officials yesterday to call in bombers from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's base at Columbia Airport to drop retardant on that portion of the fire, said Jack Horner, Forest Service spokesman. One firefighting crew was called in yesterday and two more 20-person crews were expected today.

The fire, started by lightning this summer just northeast of Cherry Lake, has grown to 4,500 acres.

Yesterday afternoon, flames jumped a fuel break in Yosemite that was cut to contain them, Horner said, which is not unusual for fires to do. He said there is no need for alarm.

"I think it was continuing to grow with the push of the wind," he said. "It wasn't any big blowup or anything."

Most of the spread was contained to Yosemite, Horner said. No structures were threatened.

Horner stressed that this fire was not like the Los Alamos, N.M., disaster in spring of 2000 where a controlled burn jumped its boundaries and scorched more than 47,000 acres and destroyed several hundred homes.

The Kibbie Complex Fire "wasn't out of control," Horner said.

However, with relative humidity dropping, Horner said his concern was not so much keeping controlled burns in their boundaries but ensuring campers properly extinguish their fires.

Campfires are not allowed below 6,000-foot elevation, Horner said. Camp stoves are allowed with a permit.

His warning comes after what firefighters thought was a small spot fire yesterday at Spicer Reservoir, south of Highway 4, turned out to be an abandoned campfire.

"Especially with hunting season starting again, we want people to be careful with fire because we've got a lot of fire already on the ground," Horner said.

Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@uniondemocrat.com .

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