Arizona Wildfires Continue To Burn; Force Change In Strategy

PAYSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Fire crews continued Wednesday burning trees and brush between a wildfire and this mountain community of 14,000, seeking to ensure the fire wouldn't advance any closer.

The Willow fire has burned roughly 32,000 acres and was considered 3 percent contained, said Marty Christensen, a spokesman for the crew fighting the fire. The blaze remained five miles southwest of Payson.

Seventeen buildings, including homes, barns and sheds, were considered threatened by the fire, but no additional evacuations were expected, Christensen said.

``The potential is still there. It's still extreme conditions, but I think everything is going as planned,'' he said.

The fire crew was working to reassure Payson residents that they were safe and no evacuations were planned. Christensen said there were considerable rumors in town, and many residents were calling to find out if it was safe to leave their homes for the upcoming July Fourth weekend.

The fire crew set up additional phone lines to help answer those queries and reassure nearby residents, Christensen said.

About 800 firefighters were working to stop the lightning-caused blaze, which has been burning cypress trees, chaparral and brush in harsh terrain since Thursday.


TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Fire crews have built fire line around about three-quarters of the 450-acre blaze in the Pinaleno Mountains but were working to reinforce them, a Forest Service spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The team fighting the fire officially said it had no containment on the fire because it wanted to strengthen lines before intentionally burning some brush and trees to deny fuel to the fire, said Marylee Peterson, a spokeswoman for Coronado National Forest.

She said more smoke was likely to be visible in Safford.

The lightning-caused Nuttall fire was being fought by nearly 500 firefighters on the northwest flank of Mount Graham.

No structures were threatened, and the fire remained more than five miles from the telescopes on Mount Graham.