Arizona Firefighters Still Working To Contain Blazes

PAYSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Officials planned to keep a stretch of State Route 87 closed for a few days because of erratic fire behavior on a 118,300-acre fire that continued to burn Thursday in central Arizona.

The Willow fire crossed State Route 87 on Wednesday night after firefighters conducted burnout operations and built lines between the road and the blaze.

Firefighters put out the fires Wednesday night and continued to conduct burnout operations along the highway into Thursday night.

Small communities near the highway that include Deer Creek, Rye and Gisela were not considered threatened, said Carrie Templin, a spokeswoman for the crew battling the fire.

State Route 87 was closed between the junction at State Route 188 and the Bush Highway.

The closure prevents people from driving to Payson or Phoenix via State Route 87, or the Beeline Highway.

The lightning-caused Willow fire, which started June 24, was considered 40 percent contained by Thursday night.

Firefighters believe they have successfully defended the communities of Payson, Pine and Strawberry against the growing fire, fire officials said.

Nearly 780 firefighters continued Thursday to work on the fire, which has cost $7.3 million to fight.


SAN CARLOS, Ariz. (AP) -- Firefighters continued to battle a 231-acre wildfire burning Thursday in steep and rugged terrain about 30 miles east of here on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.

The Military fire, which was burning oak brush, ponderosa pines and juniper trees, was 80 percent contained by Thursday night, said Rich Kvale, incident commander for the crew fighting the blaze.

No structures were threatened. The fire, however, also imperiled the habitat for threatened Mexican spotted owls.

Nearly 270 firefighters worked to put out hot spots on the fire, which was sparked by lightning Tuesday.

Full containment was expected by Friday night, Kvale said.


TONTO VILLAGE, Ariz. (AP) -- Firefighters worked to contain a 140-acre fire that had briefly forced the evacuation of about 85 homes east of Payson.

About 100 firefighters continued Thursday to put out hot spots and strengthen a rough line around the Ponderosa fire, said Emily Garber, a spokeswoman for the crew fighting the fire.

Fire officials were reluctant to call the blaze contained until they were confident nothing in the area could catch fire, Garber said.

Full containment was expected by Friday.

The fire, first reported Wednesday, briefly forced the evacuation of two subdivisions. Homeowners were quickly evacuated midday Wednesday but were allowed back in their homes by that evening.

No structures were threatened Thursday.