Firefighters Make Progress Against California Wildfire

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- Firefighters made steady progress Friday against a blaze that got out of control after it was ignited to destroy dry brush and dead trees.

The 350-acre fire was 65 percent contained and had stopped moving Friday, authorities said. Full containment was expected Saturday.

About 1,500 skiers were ordered to leave Bear Mountain and adjacent Snow Summit but no homes were evacuated and no one was injured, said Forest Service spokeswoman Carol Beckley said. A hut used by the resort's ski patrol was destroyed.

One resort opened Friday, and another was expected to accept skiers Saturday.

More than 570 firefighters, aided by water-dropping aircraft, were battling the flames, about two miles south of the resort city of Big Bear Lake.

The blaze was set Wednesday by the Forest Service to destroy dry brush and dead trees in one of the nation's most heavily urbanized forests. It got out of control Thursday afternoon and raced uphill.

Last fall, wildfires burned tens of thousands of acres and hundreds of homes to the west, in the Lake Arrowhead area of the 840,000-acre San Bernardino National Forest, but vast stands of trees killed by an infestation of bark beetles remain, and Southern California's winter ended with days of record-breaking high temperatures.

Authorities say controlled burns are an important tool in forest management, but the latest fire has renewed debate over the issue.

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