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Crews Work to Turn Arizona Wildfire Away From Homes

Backfires, ridges and roads are used to keep flames from advancing. Another blaze forced the evacuation of a Scout camp near Las Vegas.

June 24, 2005|From Associated Press

CAREFREE, Ariz. — Firefighters used roads, ridges and natural barriers to make a stand Thursday against a wildfire that threatened multimillion-dollar houses near Phoenix.

In southern Nevada, meanwhile, firefighters tried to control at least 10 lightning-sparked fires that together had burned more than 19,000 acres and cast a smoky haze over the Las Vegas Strip.

The largest fire charred 15,000 acres south of Las Vegas and prompted the evacuation of 100 people from a Boy Scout camp. Officials said the evacuation was a preventive measure.

The windblown Arizona blaze burned at least 46,000 acres and forced the evacuation of about 250 homes. About 600 firefighters battled the blaze, with help from aircraft dropping flame retardant.

Crews set backfires to burn brush in the path of the flames, and used roads and natural barriers to direct the fire away from homes.

By Thursday afternoon, the fire was moving north, away from the threatened community of Tonto Hills, a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes about 20 miles northeast of Phoenix.

"Tonto Hills looks like it's looking pretty good," said Emily Garber, spokeswoman for the fire crews.

Helicopters dropped water to drown the fire around nearby Camp Creek, an area with several cabins with many summertime residents. The area appeared to be out of danger Thursday.

Vincent Francia, mayor of nearby Cave Creek, said 12 homes had been lost -- two in the Tonto Hills area and 10 cabins in Camp Creek. Around Camp Creek, all that was left of some residences were chimneys or stoves sitting in fields of ash.

Eric Herrman briefly returned to his $1.5-million Tonto Hills home to retrieve documents and clothing.

"It's our dream home," he said. "It took us five years to build."

Herrman moved in with his in-laws in Scottsdale. "When planes started to come drop retardant on my neighbor's deck, I thought it was time to leave," he said.

Sheriff's deputies escorted people to their homes to retrieve pets, but otherwise would not allow them into the evacuated area.

Fire crews in Utah and Idaho continued battling fires caused by lightning, although no structures were threatened and no one had been displaced.

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