Summer Fires Blaze in West, Central Washington Gains Respite

IN eight Western states, more than 24,000 firefighters are battling 39 major fires crackling across some 370,378 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Firefighters yesterday were gaining control of the largest, the 119,000-acre blaze in central Washington. Residents of Chelan, menaced a week ago, celebrated their safety with a community swim in Lake Chelan. The air remained hazy, but it was nothing like the smoky pall that hung over the town days ago.

A few miles southwest in Leavenworth, residents eyed the ragged line of fire working down a rugged ridge at the north end of the Bavarian-themed tourist town.

Forest Service officials say the fire poses no threat other than thick smoke. The mountain is too steep for ground crews; firefighters are waiting for the 32,000-acre blaze to hit the bottom of the mountain, where they hope to corral it with the fire lines they've dug there. Vote tests power of religious right

SOUTH Carolina's crowded primary ballot today will test the power of religious conservatives and measure voter interest in whether the Confederate flag should fly over the Statehouse.

There are 14 candidates running for governor or lieutenant governor and 15 running for two open US House seats.

But polls taken since mid-July indicate that more than a third and sometimes half or more of the voters remain undecided.

South Carolinians can vote in either party's primary. Republicans, hoping to stir interest in theirs, have three non-binding questions on the GOP ballot. One asks whether voters support keeping the Confederate battle flag atop the Statehouse.

The Confederate flag has flown there since 1962, but civil rights groups threaten a boycott of the state unless the flag comes down by Labor Day.

The governor's race is wide open because Gov. Carroll Campbell, South Carolina's second Republican governor since Reconstruction, is barred from running for a third consecutive term.

Governor Campbell's coalition is straining as Republican regulars bicker with an increasingly influential bloc of religious conservatives that includes members of broadcaster Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition.

The GOP front-runner is a religious conservative, former state Rep. David Beasley, who frequently mentions his ties to Campbell. Mr. Beasley, once a sharp Campbell critic as Democratic majority leader in the state House, switched parties three years ago.

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