Some Prescott residents allowed back home as wildfire battle rages
Weather helps firefighters contain blaze; unauthorized drone interferes
PRESCOTT VALLEY, ARIZ. | Conditions for the hundreds of firefighters battling a large northern Arizona blaze were looking good Thursday as officials announced that some residents would be allowed back into their homes.
The fire near Prescott, about 100 miles north of Phoenix, grew slightly during the night but was better contained and would be aided by good weather, fire officials said.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office also said that residents of the Mayer community would be allowed back into 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 the weather. I’m feeling good,” said Todd Abel, Southwest Area Incident Management Team Operations Section chief.
Authorities said low winds would help efforts Thursday and that it was likely that a larger percent of the fire would be 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 that about 3,400 people in the area had 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 were homes.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey planned 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 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 that 25-mph wind gusts had pushed the wildfire near Brian Head to more than 91 square miles, though firefighters 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 were providing protection for neighborhoods, but no evacuations had been announced.
California’s largest fire, covering nearly 10 square miles in Riverside County, was 86 percent contained.
A 400-acre 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 were knocked down.
An Arizona wildfire forced the evacuation of about 1,400 residents in Mayer. Several other mountain communities in the Prescott area also were affected.
Residents returning after a wildfire in Santa Margarita, California, found destroyed cars and homes. The state’s largest fire, covering nearly 10 square miles in Riverside County, was 10 percent contained.
Cal Fire Capt. Kevin Dixon cut up a tree after he noticed it had been hollowed out by a wildfire.