YUCCA VALLEY, Calif. (AP) – Nearly 4,000 firefighters worked in blistering heat Saturday to corral a huge complex of fires in rugged wilderness and keep them from threatening desert and mountain communities.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said after flying over the blazes. “The weather conditions are such – wind and a lot of heat – it is a perfect condition for wildfires.”

A body was found about a mile away from the home of a man reported missing after a fire swept through the movie Western community of Pioneertown, officials said.

The San Bernardino County’s coroner was investigating the death, National Park Service spokeswoman Jan Lemons said. No other details were immediately available.

A family member last heard from Jerry Guthrie, 57, when he called Tuesday and said the fire was close and he was preparing to evacuate, authorities said. His house was not destroyed, despite being surrounded by charred desert.

Fire officials reported some progress on the fires, which covered more than 110 square miles in Southern California about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

A 59,000-acre fire was 40 percent contained, its eastern flank no longer a problem but its western side still a major concern. Evacuations remained in effect in three areas, but were lifted in four others. Ignited by lightning a week ago it roared to life a few days later, destroying 56 desert homes.

An adjacent complex of fires that merged with the larger fire Friday grew to more than 12,000 acres but was still 5 percent contained. Crews protected a handful of homes in a canyon, but there were no evacuations.

The fires were burning below the flanks of the San Bernardino Mountains, but as of Saturday were not considered immediate threats to resort communities in the Big Bear Lake region atop the range.

“There is no evacuation or potential evacuations at this time for Big Bear,” said Wayne Barringer, a fire information officer for the California Department of Forestry.

Firefighters were being airlifted to the inaccessible western flank of the larger fire or were being driven in and hiking the rest of the way. Some crews were having to camp in remote locations.

Schwarzenegger, who visited a command post at Yucca Valley High School with his wife, Maria Shriver, said their helicopter had flown close enough to see firefighters working on the ground.

“It is a huge fire. It is really extraordinary how quickly it has spread out,” he said. “And that’s why I say it is very dangerous and they have to contain it as quickly as possible.”

Fire commander Rick Henson told the governor the threat to structures in Yucca Valley communities was over, but he noted that when the fires merged they began moving a bit north and west, toward the mountains.

“It’s really not moving toward Big Bear right now but it is a threat,” he said.

Elsewhere in Southern California, a 500-acre blaze in Redlands was 20 percent contained after destroying one building. It broke out Friday night and threatened 100 homes but there were no evacuations.

In San Diego County, a 120-acre fire in Cleveland National Forest was fully contained and hand crews were finishing off the remains of a 20-acre blaze that spread over both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border in Tecate, said state fire spokeswoman Audrey Hagen.

Meanwhile, in southern Montana, firefighters mostly east of Billings were battling four large fires that charred tens of thousands of acres Friday evening. The fires threatened about 150 homes, officials said.

In northern Minnesota, an 800-acre fire in a wilderness area near was worrying authorities, who feared it could be fueled by millions of trees that blew down in a 1999 storm. Temperatures were near 100 in nearby Duluth.

Associated Press reporter Steve Fluty contributed to this report.

On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center http://www.nifc.gov

AP-ES-07-15-06 1741EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.