Ariz. Crews Make Progress on Wildfire

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona --

Authorities working to battle a 14,000-acre (5,666-hectare) wildfire that's threatened neighborhoods and clouded skies with smoke were to decide Wednesday on whether to allow an estimated 1,000 residents to return home.

Lower wind speeds gave fire crews some relief Tuesday, and officials were confident that hundreds of previously endangered Flagstaff homes have been secured. By late Tuesday afternoon, authorities announced that the so-called Schultz fire was 20 percent contained.

But efforts to fight the blaze will likely continue for at least two weeks, incident commander Dugger Hughes said at a news conference Tuesday evening.

"It's going to be a long haul," he said. "But it's looking good."

The fire's southern edge is about five miles from Flagstaff, a forested mountain town of about 60,000. Crews continued to work on containment lines on the south and north sides where the fire is most active, said fire spokeswoman Erin Phelps.

Residents who showed up at a shelter at lunchtime were still waiting to hear how long they had to be out of their homes. Tracey Simpson, who has stayed in hotels the past two nights, learned she would have to find a room for yet another night.

Simpson and her husband moved to Flagstaff from Pennsylvania five weeks ago and were forced to evacuate on Sunday from the home they rent in the fire area.

She has no assurance of recovering any possessions if they were lost to the flames.

"We were unprepared," Simpson said. "I forgot to get renter's insurance."

Staying in hotels is getting expensive, she said, and they can't bring their two dogs along to sleep at a shelter.

"I have never experienced anything like this," Simpson said. "We just want to go home."

Two heavy air tankers were used on the blaze Tuesday, said fire spokesman Eric Neitzel. The tankers, part of 19 under contract through the U.S. Forest Service to fight fires across the country, are capable of carrying lots of fire retardant used to slow the spread of fire.

Strong winds had quickly fanned the fire that broke out Sunday. Authorities said it was started by an abandoned campfire. No major injuries have been reported and no structures have burned.


Associated Press Writer Felicia Fonseca contributed to this report.

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