Huge California Fire Finally Being Tamed

LOS ANGELES--Firefighters who spent five days battling a blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest that has reached the size of San Francisco were making headway for the first time yesterday, thanks in part to a break in the weather.

Hot winds had fueled the so-called Willows fire for much of the week as it charred more than 60,000 acres in the forest and damaged or destroyed 34 structures, including homes and summer cabins. But as the winds diminished, cooler temperatures and higher humidity were helping 2,240 firefighters cut a line partway around the blaze.

"It's definitely a nice feeling to have the weather on your side for once and not against you," said Dolores Chacon, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry.

There was no forecast, however, of when firefighters would have the blaze fully under control. With the Labor Day weekend coming, that was bad news for the thousands of vacationers who normally flood the area for the last summer holiday.

"Campgrounds in the Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead areas are closed, and several towns are still under mandatory or voluntary evacuation," Chacon said.

Another fire, burning in the Los Angeles National Forest on the outskirts of Los Angeles, had consumed 7,000 acres but was partially contained.

The two fires were the only ones still burning of more than a dozen that raged throughout Southern California during the weekend. "All the rest are out," Chacon said.

In Northern California, fire consumed 14,500 acres in the Plumas National Forest and 5,500 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.


* PHILADELPHIA--Two Philadelphia-based car theft rings that stretched across five states, including Maryland, and stole thousands of cars worth $40 million have been broken up with the arrest of 47 people in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Prosecutors described a network of junkyards, body shops and thieves with a hot line that would allow orders to be placed for stolen cars and parts.

* PORTLAND, Ore.--Oregon's medical board has disciplined a doctor for not doing enough to relieve six patients' pain, marking the first time a state board in the United States has taken such action for giving too little--rather than too much--medication. Paul A. Bilder of Roseburg was accused of using Tylenol to treat an elderly man who was in pain from terminal cancer, refusing morphine for an 82-year-old with congestive heart failure and declining to resume pain medication for a woman on a mechanical ventilator.

* MADISON, Ga.--Krystal Archer, 17, was savagely beaten by a trio of attackers who returned to the scene repeatedly over several days before they finally stabbed her to death, authorities said. Her body was found Tuesday, a month after she disappeared, after one suspect turned himself in and led authorities to the crime scene. Arrested were Timothy Curtis Cole, 21, and Michael Christopher Teal, 19, both of Covington, and Danielle Hubbard, 18, of Athens.

* TALLAHASSEE--Florida voters knew what they were doing when they changed the constitution to limit state politicians to eight years in office, the state Supreme Court said. The high court's decision to uphold the term limits amendment means more than a third of the Legislature's 160 members will be barred from seeking reelection in November 2000.

* NEW YORK--More than 21,000 students in the nation's largest school system will be forced to repeat a grade because they failed tests at the end of summer school, didn't take the required tests or never attended the summer classes at all. Officials said 14,000 of the 35,000 students who had been told to attend summer school skipped classes or the tests.

* NEW YORK--A judge declared a mistrial in the tax evasion case of Abe Hirschfeld after a holdout juror refused to convict the eccentric real estate magnate of cheating New York City and the state of $3.3 million. Hirschfeld, 79, who once offered Paula Jones $1 million to end her sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton, will be retried in November. He said he would take the jurors to lunch and give each a personal check for $2,500 for their time--$5,000 for the holdout, if he can find out who it was.

* LOS ANGELES--Cheryl Burnham, a clerk at a county juvenile facility, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for ringing up a $120,000 tab on her employer to a psychic hot line. She pleaded no contest to felony grand theft for placing 2,500 calls on county telephones to the psychic hot line in the Dominican Republic.

* LOS ANGELES--Former UCLA assistant vice chancellor Jeffrey Marc Hirsch, a self-described book and art collector who has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, pleaded guilty to stealing about $475,000 from the university to finance a three-year spending spree. Hirsch, 46, compulsively collected so many antiques, artworks and tchotchkes that he kept them in a rented storage locker, authorities said.