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THE NATION

Crews See Gains Against Arizona Wildfire

Nature: The 23,300-acre Bullock blaze is 60% contained. But breezes forecast for today could make for some problems on the lines.

June 02, 2002|From Associated Press

TUCSON — Fire crews were optimistic that they were gaining the upper hand Saturday against a 23,300-acre wildfire in southern Arizona.

The Bullock fire was 60% contained, and firefighters worked to maintain existing fire lines and complete new ones, said fire spokeswoman Joan Vasey.

"We're working toward success and we're getting results," she said. "We're taking it day by day and hour by hour."

Air tankers and helicopters continued working Saturday to reinforce fire lines. Firefighters also set more controlled blazes to remove the fuel that could feed the wildfire.

Fire officials warned that residents in Tucson would likely see smoke over the weekend because of the controlled burns.

Breezy winds were expected from the southwest today and Monday, potentially leading to warnings of heightened danger, said National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Goering.

But Vasey said winds were calm Saturday at Mt. Lemmon, which towers to the northeast of the city, where fires were being battled.

"We're hoping to turn the corner today, though we won't be out of the woods until we get the fire 100%, fully contained," she said.

Crews on Friday saved an array of telecommunications towers and two telescopes on top of Mt. Bigelow, one of the highest peaks on 9,000-foot Mt. Lemmon.

The fire had been burning for days at the base of Mt. Bigelow, threatening to race to the top of the 8,250-foot peak. The fire approached within half a mile of the transmitters and telescopes.

"The mountain is now contained, so things are looking good," Vasey said.

Fire officials estimated the cost of fighting the fire to be more than $9.4 million.

Even after firefighters contain the blaze, people won't be allowed back into the area until firefighters have determined the area is safe, Vasey said. One hundred people were evacuated when the fire began approaching homes.

Bob Zimmerman, a Summerhaven business owner who was forced to leave 10 days ago, said he doesn't know how long it will take for the community to recover once residents and business owners are finally allowed back.

"It's a huge fire. It's mind-breaking to see how much stuff has burned," he said. "As far as I can see it's just blackened timbers standing there.... Soon, we're going to be going into a new phase, the aftermath."

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