Crews continue fighting blaze in rural Decatur

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2005

DECATUR - Four days after it began, a massive forest fire in rural Decatur Township continues to burn though it has been mostly contained.

The blaze that began late Sunday has consumed more than 300 acres of woodland within the Wayne National Forest and kept firefighters from across the country scrambling to stay one step ahead of the fire west of State Route 93 off of Buckhorn Road.

"The fire itself, at this point in time, is 80 percent contained," said Glenn Bell, public information working with the Wayne National Forest on the fire. "What I mean by contained is that there is a containment line around 80 percent of the fire."

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Today, firefighters will finish the line, clean up the entire perimeter and put out all small smoldering fires within 200 feet of the blaze, Bell said. Depending on the weather, crews will continue to fight the blaze at least through Thursday.

More than 75 people from a variety of agencies and states including Idaho, New Mexico, Tennessee and Colorado are assisting in the efforts. Helicopter support has been dropping water on the fire as well.

Bell said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the worst is behind them.

"The crews are working as hard as they can to get the containment line and get the line cleaned up," he said. "This will compensate for the wind from the expected weather change that will be coming through."

Only minor injuries have been sustained so far and no structures have been damaged, he said.

The dry weather has not helped but much of the problem stems from the February 2003 ice storms that left much downed debris and underbrush that has made the firefighters' job even more difficult and provide fuel for the blaze.

The cause of the fire is still

to be determined.