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FOREST FIRE UNDER SIEGE FROM ABOVE

SHARE FOREST FIRE UNDER SIEGE FROM ABOVE

Ground crews were still arriving Thursday to battle a 1,000-acre forest fire burning at the Beaver Mountain ski area.

But the main assault on the blaze, so far, has been from the sky.Fourteen aircraft were fighting the fire Wednesday, and the air assault was expected to be dropping water and fire retardant Thursday.

"Somebody told me it was the best air show they'd ever seen," said fire information officer Kathy Jo Pollock.

The initial assault included six tanker bombers and four smaller lead planes and four helicopters.

"I'm not sure the tankers will be back today, but the situation changes hour by hour," Pollock said. The four helicopters have been assigned specifically to the Beaver Mountain fire and would be working the skies regardless of whether the tankers return, she said.

Lightning started the fire Tuesday morning about five miles west of Bear Lake. High temperatures helped keep it active through the first 24 hours, and it was still jumping across the canopy of the forest's fir and aspen trees Thursday.

"The main concern now that the helicopters and tankers have got it watered down like they have is to get the 'dozers in there - get the 'dozer lines in there and get the crews really hopping on it," Pollock said.

Four bulldozers began cutting firebreaks Wednesday and they will also continue cutting breaks until the fire is contained.

Four 20-member ground crews were working the fire Thursday, and fire bosses expected two additional crews to arrive later in the day.

The fire has also burned within 300 feet of the ski area's lodge and within 50 feet of the ski patrol building. Two fire engines dispatched from Logan remained on guard at the lodge Thursday.

Fire has also burned under at least one of the resort's three chair lifts, spreading quickly through dry grass that covers many of the ski trails. But Pollock said there was no report whether the fire had damaged any of the lift's towers.

A storm was forecast for the late afternoon Thursday. The big question fire officials have is whether it will bring moisture - or just wind and more lightning, Pollock said.

Officials were making no estimate Thursday when the fire might be contained.