Some Prescott res­i­dents al­lowed back home as wild­fire bat­tle rages

Weather helps fire­fight­ers con­tain blaze; unau­tho­rized drone in­ter­feres

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MATT YORK AND ASTRID GAL­VAN

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.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

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.

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