Arizona Fire Stays Away From Homes

The Woody Fire burns toward homes Wednesday, June 14, 2006, in Flagstaff, Ariz. wildire
Despite wind gusts of up to 50 mph, crews managed to keep a 6,200-acre wildfire within containment lines Wednesday and keep flames away from homes in an eastern Arizona subdivision.

The Potato Fire, which was 60 percent contained by Wednesday night, was moving northeastward but was still a half mile away from the closest home, said Bob Dyson, a spokesman for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

"There is optimism that it may not get much closer than that — a half mile," Dyson said Wednesday night. "The fire has stayed within containment lines which is remarkable because the winds were blowing 30 to 50 miles per hour most of the day."

The wind-whipped fire threatened five Flagstaff subdivisions.

Fire crews who stopped another, smaller wildfire before it could move into residential developments in west Flagstaff Wednesday night credited the quick response of air tankers and extensive forest thinning with helping turn the tide.

By Thursday morning, crews had a line completely around the fire and were working to put out a few hot spots and deepen the lines, said Cathie Schmidlin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. Despite the lines, with winds expected to pick up again Thursday afternoon, fire officials are concerned about flareups.

Officials with the Coconino County Sheriff's Department said they and Flagstaff police evacuated about 1,000 homes in the path of the fire. Earlier reports had only about 200 homes evacuated.

Those residents may not be able to return home until Friday, sheriff's spokesman Gerry Blair said. He said the evacuations went smoothly.

"The fire is roughly 200 acres. We have about eight crews on the fire right now. That's eight 20-person crews," Coconino National Forest spokeswoman Raquel Romero told CBS Radio affiliate KFYI. "It started just north of Interstate 40, southwest of Flagstaff."

Several air tankers dropped water and retardant on the fire in the hours before sundown Wednesday.

"A subdivision called Railroad Springs ... on the southwest side of Flagstaff has been evacuated, and Lowell Observatory has been evacuated," Romero said.