Drought-striken California's two major forest fires exploded yesterday. Within 24 hours the Scarface fire doubled in size to 68,000 acres, and the Marble Cone nearly doubled to 58,000 acres.
Over Scarface, smoke towered 30,000 feet. The fire was so big the Forest Service said it was generating its own weather, causing rain in nearby Oregon.
Because of low winds, smoke over Marble Cone stayed put, destroying the visibility of aerial tankers over most of the area.
The Marble Cone fire has consumed most of the Ventana Wilderness area, home of the Santa Lucia firs which grow nowhere else in the scenic Big Sur country.
Nearly 10,000 firefighters were coping with 72 remaining blazes of 400 set Tuesday by lightning. Nine of the remaining blazes were still out of control.
Scarface, raging through vast areas of commercial lumber in the Lassen-Modoc area in far northeastern California, was expected to join forces with two other large fires - the 15,000-acre Pondosa six miles away and its nearby 10,000-acre Horr's Corner.
Damage to the Marble Cone watershed was estimated at $113 million, and a Forest Service official said the precious Ventana wilderness is not going to recover "in our lifetime."
In Washington and Oregon, lighting ignited 70 new fires. In Oregon's Fremont National Forest a four-day-old 7,200-acre blaze was still out of control.