Some evacuations lifted as Arizona blaze improves

Posted: Updated:
Conditions for the hundreds of firefighters battling a large northern Arizona blaze were looking good Thursday as officials announced some residents would be allowed back in their homes. (Source: 3TV/ CBS 5) Conditions for the hundreds of firefighters battling a large northern Arizona blaze were looking good Thursday as officials announced some residents would be allowed back in their homes. (Source: 3TV/ CBS 5)

By MATT YORK and ASTRID GALVAN
The Associated Press

PRESCOTT VALLEY, AZ (AP) - Conditions for the hundreds of firefighters battling a large northern Arizona blaze were looking good Thursday as officials announced some residents would be allowed back in their homes.

The fire near Prescott. about 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) north of Phoenix, grew slightly during the night but was better contained and would be aided by good weather, fire officials said Thursday.

The Yavapai Sheriff's Office also said that residents of the Mayer community will be allowed back in their homes Thursday morning. Mayer has about 1,400 residents.

Officials say humidity helped firefighting efforts Wednesday night despite a temporary halt to aircraft operations because of an unauthorized drone in the area. Several helicopters and fire crews had to stop working for about 45 minutes to an hour because the drone posed a serious safety hazard. Authorities did not find the pilot.

"Yesterday was very good day. We got that break in that weather. I'm feeling good," said Todd Abel, Southwest Area Incident Management Team Operations Section chief.

Authorities say low winds will help efforts Thursday and that it's likely a larger percent of the fire has been contained.

More than 800 firefighters were battling the blaze burning in communities around Prescott, a mountain city that draws a mix of desert dwellers escaping the heat, retirees and visitors to its famed Old West-themed Whiskey Row.

Yavapai County spokesman David McAtee said Wednesday about 3,400 people in the area have been affected by the fire and roughly 3,000 structures in the evacuated areas were at risk but officials were not immediately sure how many are homes.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey plans to visit the area Thursday after declaring a state of emergency in Yavapai County that directs $200,000 in emergency funds to fire suppression efforts and reimbursements for emergency response and recovery costs.

It's also a key requirement should federal aid be requested.

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said Thursday that the governor would be meeting with fire officials and evacuees.

Elsewhere, hundreds of people forced from their homes by a southern Utah wildfire are expected to be allowed back to a ski town even as the blaze grows. Fire managers said Thursday at 25-mph wind gusts have pushed the wildfire near Brian Head to more than 91 square miles (236 square kilometers), though firefighters have increased containment to 15 percent. The fire was ignited by a weed-burning torch.

In California, a wildfire burning on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base and in San Clemente is about 10 percent contained. Officials there say higher humidity levels slowed the fire's pace to a crawl.

Some of the 200 firefighters on the scene are providing protection for nearby neighborhoods, but there are no evacuations.

California's largest fire, covering nearly 10 square miles (26 sq. kilometers) in Riverside County, is 86 percent contained.

A 400-acre (162-hectare) fire in Mariposa County on the western Sierra foothills is 10 percent surrounded.

In Los Angeles County, fires that flared dangerously close to Hollywood Hills and Burbank homes have been knocked down.

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AP writers Clarice Silber, Josh Hoffner and Bob Christie in Phoenix, and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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