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Arizona Fire Battle Is Winding Down

Disaster: The blaze that consumed 467,580 acres is 70% contained, and crews start pulling out.

July 03, 2002|From Associated Press

CIBECUE, Ariz. — Crews fighting the largest wildfire in Arizona history shifted their focus from the evacuated community of Forest Lakes to the southern end of the blaze, and fire bosses say the end of the battle may be in sight.

The 467,580-acre blaze about 100 miles northeast of Phoenix has consumed at least 423 homes since it started June 18, but was about 70% contained Tuesday. The fire is expected to be fully contained by Sunday, and some crews are already being pulled off the lines to be sent to other fires.

About 25,000 evacuees have been allowed to return home, many of them in Show Low, the economic hub of the area.

But 3,500 to 4,000 others remain evacuated.

Officials said it would be at least a few more days before the remaining evacuees are allowed to go back.

Firefighters watched for flare-ups near the fire perimeter, at one point snuffing a 10-acre blaze northwest of Cibecue believed to have started by a flying ember.

With fire line built around most of the huge fire, prospects for containing the blaze were good, said Kris Eriksen, a fire information officer. The main fire had threatened the community of Forest Lakes over the weekend, but firefighters were able to keep it out of the community.

Crews didn't work the fire near Forest Lakes Monday night, said fire information officer Bruce Palmer.

The number of people working the blaze dropped from 4,000 over the weekend to 3,400 Monday night.

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