Crews gain hold on wildfire west of Prescott

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Crews battling a 10-square-mile wildfire west of Prescott that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes reported the first containment figure Thursday at 10 percent, declaring that "we're starting to make some progress."

Infrared images captured during a survey flight Thursday night put the size of the Doce Fire at about 6,800 acres, which is a slight increase from the last survey. The containment firefighters established was holding Friday morning.

None of the more than 460 homes evacuated because of the Doce Fire has been destroyed, and no injuries have been reported. The blaze is anchored on the south end, and a line at the base of Little Granite Mountain is holding, said incident commander Tony Sciacca.

"We're happy to say that the anchor of the fire, the heel of the fire we've been talking about is secure," he said.

Air tankers have been dropping fire retardant to strengthen the containment lines and to create a barrier between homes and the blaze, but those resources were redirected Thursday to a much larger wildfire in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest. Four helicopters that have been dropping water over the fire remain.

Much of the activity on the Doce Fire that broke out Tuesday has been on the north end, threatening homes in the valley below Granite Mountain. Firefighters were installing sprinklers around people's homes as needed.

None of the evacuated residents has been able to return home, and new evacuations were ordered for the area east of Mint Creek.

When residents return, some will find charred trees and burn scars in their yards. Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said he was certain a string of homes and potentially some lives were going to be lost as he helped evacuate people earlier this week from Sundown Acres.

He said the fire had quickly moved off the mountain into the small neighborhood but firefighters worked hard to ensure that property and lives were spared.

"Those men and women are heroes," he said.

Wind gusts of around 30 mph will be the norm for the rest of the week, though the speeds will decrease slightly and humidity will go up, Sciacca said. Gusts of more than 30 mph would be particularly challenging for firefighters and could ground air support, Sciacca said.

He said he was looking to Mother Nature to cooperate so that he could report an even higher percentage of containment.

The Doce Fire isn't the largest wildfire to burn in Arizona so far this year, but it's been the most visible. It started Tuesday and quickly consumed parts of the Granite Mountain Wilderness and raced toward homes.

The fast-moving nature of the fire prompted Gov. Jan Brewer to issue an emergency declaration Thursday, freeing up $100,000 in emergency response and recovery aid. The declaration also allows the Arizona National Guard to be called in to protect life and property if needed.

Parts of the Prescott National Forest also have been closed, with the rest under fire restrictions.

Iron Springs Road is now open to all traffic. Williamson Valley Road east of the fire between Pioneer Parkway and Outer Loop Road remains closed to the public. Residents from neighborhoods north of the intersection of Williamson Valley and Outer Loop Road should plan additional travel around the road closure areas.

Officials have estimated the cost of fighting the fire at $2.2 million, mostly because of the aircraft in use.

Investigators said the Doce Fire was human caused but haven't determined the exact source. They're asking anyone with information about suspicious activity that could be related to the fire to call law enforcement.

A separate fire south of the Grand Canyon was fully contained Thursday after burning 250 acres of federal land about 5 miles east of Tusayan.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.