Central Arizona Wildfire Stablizing

Fire officials said crews managed to stabilize the southern zone of a nearly 244,000-acre wildfire burning in central Arizona and were focusing on drawing lines around the northern flank Sunday.


PHOENIX (AP) -- Fire officials said crews managed to stabilize the southern zone of a nearly 244,000-acre wildfire burning in central Arizona and were focusing on drawing lines around the northern flank Sunday.

Fire spokesman Dave Killebrew said the Cave Creek Complex fire was 75 percent contained on the south zone by Sunday night and 30 percent contained on the north zone.

He said better mapping also lowered the acreage total to 243,800, down from the 250,500 acre figure released earlier Sunday.

Killebrew said more than 1,400 people were fighting the fire, which had charred 212,800 acres in the south zone and 31,000 in the north zone.

''Things are starting to look much better,'' Killebrew said. ''The burnout operations in the north zone made significant progress.''

David Elkowitz, another firefighters' spokesman, said crews had established about 100 miles of line _ using both manmade lines and natural barriers _ along the south.

Crews spent Sunday mopping up and patrolling the line to make sure it was keeping the fire restrained.

Thanks to successful burnout operations along the southwest flank on Friday and Saturday, crews managed to protect a community that was in the path of the mammoth wildfire spreading through dry brush and grass.

Any danger that the fire would reach Black Canyon City had been significantly diminished, fire officials said. Fire crews had also successfully kept the fire from growing on the eastern side, closest to the communities of Pine and Strawberry.

Chris Papen, a spokesman for firefighters working in the northern zone, said burnout operations to the west and north of that zone were holding. On Sunday, firefighters worked to complete a line east of the Verde River in rugged terrain, he said.

''That should close the loop and put the fire in its box,'' Papen said.

Because of the terrain in that area, air tankers were used to drop retardant and backburns were ignited from the air using flammable pellets dropped from helicopters.

No communities were imminently threatened by the fire and no evacuation advisories had been issued, officials said.

The Cave Creek Complex fire began as two lightning-sparked fires on June 21 near Cave Creek and within days had forced the evacuations of some 250 homes northeast of Phoenix. Eleven homes and three storage sheds were destroyed in that area.