PINE, AZ (AP) — Residents of a small central Arizona community were allowed to return home Saturday after being evacuated because of a wildfire, authorities said.
The Gila County Sheriff's Department lifted the evacuation order for Pine but said residents should be prepared to leave again if necessary. Meanwhile, residents of Strawberry and Hunt Ranch are expected to be allowed back into their homes at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The wildfire has burned 40,841 acres of mixed vegetation about 12 miles west of Pine and Strawberry. The communities have a combined population of about 3,000 people.
The fire has been burning for more than a week in an area where six firefighters were killed in June 1990 while battling another lightning-sparked blaze, the Dude Fire.
“We honor their memory by learning from the tragedy and striving to not let such an event happen again,” fire officials said in a statement Saturday.
More than 700 firefighters were working on the current fire, aided by aircraft. The fire was 13% contained Saturday.
People in Pine were allowed back into their homes on Saturday after evacuation orders were lifted because of the Backbone Fire.
Other wildfires are burning in Arizona, including one southwest of Flagstaff that was pushing smoke into the Prescott area. Crews were fighting the Rafael Fire from the ground and air, using helicopters and drones to keep it from advancing toward Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Williams. It has burned 71 square miles with no containment.
Dozens of rural ranches and other homes have been evacuated, and others are in various stages of preparedness.
Editor's Note: Arizona's Family updated this story with the latest evacuation information indicating that evacuations were being lifted in Strawberry and Hunt Ranch at 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.