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Wildfire still growing in Talladega Forest

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — Forty firefighters from Pennsylvania and Mississippi were on their way to Alabama to help battle a wildfire that had burned more than 400 acres of wilderness Thursday as temperatures soared into triple digits yet again in a month of record heat.

The blaze was still growing in the Talladega National Forest between Lineville and Talladega, but officials hoped to contain it before it could spread further through East Alabama.

Jorge Hersel, a spokesman for the U.S. Forestry Service, said about 100 firefighters would be working on the fire by Friday after the arrival of the out-of-state crews.

Hersel said firefighters “made significant progress” Thursday and had the fire “80 percent well-contained” by the end of the day. Firefighters had to stop work around 5 p.m. because of lightning in the area.

“We are cautiously optimistic, but this fire is by no means through or finished,” Hersel said.

He said six miles of fire line have been dug around the edge of the fire to contain it. He said firefighters on Friday would check to make sure the fire hadn’t jumped the line and finish putting it out.

Aside from fighting the fire, crews were having to bring in loads of water to keep workers hydrated, said Hersel.

“It’s very hot and dry out there,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of people who got a little weak and we had to pull them off the fire line, but we haven’t had any major problems.”

Hersel said Thursday evening that two people overheated on Wednesday and one on Thursday. He said all three were mild cases, and the firefighters recovered after they were pulled off the line.

Firefighters have been working since Monday to extinguish the wildfire, which has left a smoky haze in Clay County.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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