Fire Threat Eases in Southern Utah after Flames Nearly Encircle Two Towns

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Overnight rain and lower temperatures helped give firefighters the upper hand on two huge fires that had threatened three separate communities in southwest Utah.

Fire officials said Sunday that an 18,368-acre (7,347-hectare) group of fires 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of St. George was 70 percent contained. About 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the city, a group of seven fires that had burned into one covering more than 22,800 acres (9,120 hectares) was 65 percent contained.

Together, the fires had formed almost a complete ring around 50 homes in Dammeron Valley and the towns of Veyo and Gunlock. The threat level for those communities was eased Sunday, U.S. Forest Service fire information officer David Chevalier said.

''Veyo and Gunlock and Dammeron Valley still have active fires burning in and around them, but we have resources there to defend their property,'' Chevalier said.

Fire crews were stationed in each town, with hoses spread along streets as a precaution, he said.

Spotty, mostly light rain fell in the area during the night, the National Weather Service said.

''The relative humidity is also up and that helps us too, however we have three days of sunshine ahead of us and things will dry out again pretty fast,'' Chevalier said.

In central Arizona, a 71,600-acre (29,000-hectare) wildfire near the town of Punkin Center was winding down, thanks to rain, higher humidity and lighter wind, officials said Sunday. The fire was 60 percent contained and full containment was expected Monday morning.

No houses were threatened and residents who had been asked to evacuate about 350 homes in the Punkin Center area had already been allowed to return.

Elsewhere, 11 homes had been evacuated from a forested area of northeast Wyoming as hot, dry wind stymied efforts to contain a cluster of lightning-caused fires, authorities said Sunday. Other residents in the area east of Sundance were told to be ready to evacuate on 30 minutes' notice.

The fires, which were only 5 percent contained, had charred 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers) of mainly ponderosa pine in the Black Hills National Forest, which straddles the Wyoming-South Dakota line.