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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Four Firefighters Killed in Road Accident

Aired June 22, 2002 - 08:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, let's get the latest now on the efforts to put down the largest wildfire in Colorado history. The driver of a van full of firefighters may face charges after the vehicle flipped on the interstate, killing four passengers. The van was part of a convoy headed to the massive Hayman blaze.

CNN's Mark Potter is in Lake George covering the war against the wildfire there. He joins us now with the latest -- good morning, Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Well, according to the Colorado State Patrol, a van filled with 11 volunteer firefighters was heading east on Highway I-70 just inside Colorado when the van veered off the road and then flipped several times, throwing four people out of the van. Of the 11, four were killed. The rest were taken to area hospitals. Three of them are listed in critical condition.

They are said to be with Greyback Forestry Incorporated (ph) of Merlin, Oregon. That's a non-profit group of firefighters. As you said, they were heading in a convoy to fight the Hayman fire, where we are now. And they actually were south of the Hayman fire in an area called Lake George.

And here today, firefighters say that they, at least weather wise, had a pretty good day yesterday, in fact, two good days. The winds came down and they actually had some rain and they took great advantage of that and they worked hard 24 hours a day. They fought the fire aggressively and they say that they have now brought the Hayman fire to within 60 percent containment.

Today, though, they're expecting tougher weather conditions. The winds are expected to come up and the humidity to drop and the temperatures to rise, drier conditions. So we'll see if that 60 percent number holds.

Now, to the southwest, the conditions are much worse. They didn't get the weather break. And so those fires, those two big fires there are still roaring out of control, 200 homes destroyed, 10,000 people here in Colorado still evacuated -- Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Mark Potter, thank you very much. Another wildfire of historic proportions is raging in eastern Arizona this morning. And that's where we find CNN's Charles Molineaux -- Charles.

CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Miles, as Mark put it, we see not one, but two big fires moving in this direction. We are in Show Low, Arizona and right now we've got the Rodeo fire heading roughly in this direction. It has burned 130,000 acres and the Forest Service is expecting that ultimately it will come together with another fire, the Chediski fire, which is burning just to the west of it. They're actually moving on a parallel course roughly to the north with about a half a dozen communities right in their path. Eight thousand people have been evacuated in the towns of Pinedale, Heber-Overgaard, Clay Springs, Arapine (ph) and Linden have been cleared out.

Actually, here Show Low is also on a possible evacuation list. The area is standing by. Firefighters have drawn a line in a canyon just to the west of here and if the fire jumps over that one, then this area is going to have to be cleared out, as well.

Meanwhile, though, we're hearing some good news on what looked like a pretty grim situation, a very dark picture on the town of Pinedale was being painted yesterday morning, but it has now been revised. The fire did roar right through Pinedale early yesterday. There were 100 homes there and the expectation had been that pretty much just about all of them had been incinerated. But now the Forest Service is reporting that it may have pulled off some pretty amazing rescues of homes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM PAXON, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: Well, fire went through there raging. I mean, it was running a mile and a half an hour in the Ponderosa Pine. And that's just -- that's a runaway fire, heavy fuels. And when it went through there, we actually pulled out people out. But they had been in there doing a lot of preparation work, and we did have firemen in there as soon as they could get back in.

We know we lost 15 or so houses. We're still doing the damage assessment. The other side of that coin is we saved 80, 85, maybe 90 houses that some didn't even sustain any damage at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOLINEAUX: A pretty amazing story. Of course, we have the highly trained type one incident response team working on the Rodeo fire. A second type one team is going to be working on the Chediski fire starting a little bit later on today. So they're bringing more resources to bear on this one, or, rather, these two fires -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, CNN's Charles Molineaux joining us from the Arizona fires. Thank you very much. We appreciate that.

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