Fire Crews Assess Whether it’s Safe for Arizona Evacuees to Return Home

June 6, 2006

Crews fighting a 836-acre wildfire that destroyed five buildings in a Sedona, Ariz., community were assessing whether it was safe for 200 evacuees to return home.

None of the 30 evacuated homes in the subdivision near the Village of Oak Creek were immediately threatened, and firefighters said they continued to make progress in stopping the fire’s advance.

Containment lines have been completed on two ends of the fire. Crews hoped on to finish tying up the fire’s remaining flanks, one of which was so steep that firefighters had to be ferried in by helicopter.

The fire was 50 percent contained. It’s not yet known when full containment was expected.

Joe Luttman, a spokesman for crews fighting the fire, said the blaze wasn’t expected to advance significantly, but that firefighters were watching out for potential breaches in protection lines caused by wind-blown embers.

Three water-dumping helicopters were available to douse such breaches.

“It’s a concern, but not a great concern at this point,” Luttman said.

Thirty homes out of about 200 in the Pine Valley subdivision were evacuated Thursday when the human-caused fire broke out. Crews had doused the burned area in the subdivision to prevent the fire from igniting again near the homes.

The blaze has destroyed one home, a building that was either a guest house or a shop and three other buildings before moving away. Another home was damaged.

Investigators said it appeared the fire was started by sparks from the grinder of a fencing company that was working on a fence post Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Forest Service officials said citations could be forthcoming and the fencing company may have to pay for some of the cost of fighting the fire, which was estimated at $300,000.

More than 500 people were fighting the fire.

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