Firefighters Report Progress on Remaining Fires in Arizona

June 19, 2006

Firefighters battling two large wildfires in eastern Arizona and a third on the Utah-Arizona border reported good progress on all three of them Saturday.

The largest blaze, burning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest about 10 miles north of the mountain community of Heber, was 85 percent contained Saturday, spokesman Bob Dyson said.

The Potato fire started June 6 with four lightning strikes and has now consumed about 6,262 acres of ponderosa pine, pinyon juniper and brush. Residents of 26 homes in the Chevelon Retreat and Chevelon Acres subdivisions evacuated Monday were allowed to return home Friday.

Dyson said some fire crews have been released, but 490 firefighters remain on the lines. Containment was expected by midweek.

A second large fire 30 miles east of the northeastern Arizona city of Page on the Utah-Arizona border was at 45 percent containment Saturday as a Type 1 firefighting team made good progress, said Jim Whittington, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management fire information officer.

Two communities on the border, Navajo Mountain in Arizona and Rainbow City in Utah, were no longer a major concern for crews, Whittington said. Team leader Dan Oltrogge cautioned that there remains risk but he is optimistic.

More than 500 firefighters were being aided by seven helicopters in the fight. The fire has burned about 3,350 acres.

Fire managers plan to begin releasing some of the 465 firefighters working the blaze on Sunday and send them to other fires, Whittington said.

“We’ve made some really good progress over the last few days,” he said.

He did not have an estimate for full containment of the fire.

Along the Arizona border with New Mexico near the town of Alpine, a fire that broke out Thursday afternoon was burning at a relatively slower pace, Dyson said. Crews worked to burn out fuel within the lines on Saturday and got a handle on spot fires that jumped the line.

The 1,497-acre Beaverhead fire was 46 percent contained Saturday night and still burning south of Josh Place, a 40-acre stretch of private land.

Eight homes in the area had to be evacuated Thursday, but residents were allowed to return Saturday morning as crews were able to hold the fire, Dyson said.

Highway 191 was expected to remain closed between Alpine and Hannigan Meadow because the fire is on both sides of the road.

In northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon, three
lightning-triggered wildfires burned a collective total of 2,845
acres, Kaibab National Forest officials said Saturday. The fires
were allowed to burn because they are not threatening any property
and remained within boundaries established by fire managers.

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