`Scary' fire skirts ranches

  Jonathan T. Lovitt ; Steve Marshall


  USA Today


  Page 01A

  (Copyright 1993)


  LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. - Fire roared across at least 27,500

  acres Wednesday, turning golden countryside into wasteland.


  "It's one of the worst fires I've ever fought," said 3-year firefighter Mike

  Gutierrez, 31, as black plumes of smoke rose 25,000 feet into the air.


  No structures have been burned and no one injured, but some nearby celebrity

  ranchers, including John and Bo Derek, were corralling horses.


  But the fire - at one point within eight miles of Michael Jackson's Neverland

  Ranch - was headed away.


  "It's been pretty scary," said former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen.

  "For awhile we were right in the line of the fire."


  More than 3,200 firefighters from as far away as Hawaii and Montana are

  working on three fronts. The fire is headed into the San Rafael Wilderness.


  "There are no roads in there," said Forest Service spokesman George Kerline.

  "Hand crews will have to cut their way into it, and of course we'll use tankers

  and copters."


  Said resident Lansing Duncan: "We haven't seen so many helicopters since

  Elizabeth Taylor got married" at Jackson's ranch.


  A hunter has admitted that his cigarette started the fire Saturday. "I'm sure he

  feels real bad," Kenline said.


  The hunter could be fined the cost of fighting the fire - more than $3 million so


  PHOTO,color,Elaine Thompson,AP