WALLOW FIRE

Wallow Fire: Huge blaze now 33% contained, officials say

2011-06-17T00:00:00Z 2011-06-18T00:00:11Z Wallow Fire: Huge blaze now 33% contained, officials say Arizona Daily Star
June 17, 2011 12:00 am

SPRINGERVILLE - The wildfire burning in Eastern Arizona now is 33 percent contained as firefighters continue to make progress.

A pre-evacuation notice for the Eagar area was put out Thursday because of expected high winds and possible spot fires.

But crews said the winds weren't so bad and they made more containment on the largest wildfire in Arizona's history.

The Wallow fire has charred more than 487,000 acres, or 760 square miles. It has destroyed 32 homes and four rental cabins.

Authorities say there was some fire activity Thursday near Eagar.

While there were no flames jumping along the ridge above the community as there were last week, fire information officer Richard Hadley said authorities wanted residents to be prepared. He said smoke could be seen rising from the hills to the south as flames kicked up in small, unburned patches of vegetation within the fire perimeter.

Containment on the fire inched up, but more winds were predicted through the weekend.

"We're kind of keeping our fingers crossed for the next three days," Hadley said.

Fire managers were concerned about the fire burning in the Blue Range area south of Alpine - the least-secure part of firefighters' lines and closest to the nearest town still threatened, Luna, N.M., where about 200 people live.

A line of cut fuels and intentionally burned areas was completed between Luna and the fire itself at daybreak Thursday, and fire commanders expressed confidence it would hold.

More than 4,600 firefighters are assigned to the fire.

A single campfire was the fire's "most likely cause," Apache-Sit-greaves National Forest supervisor Chris Knopp said. He confirmed that investigators had questioned two people but declined to say any more about the investigation. He called them "persons of interest," not suspects.

On Thursday, Knopp said investigators were able to get into the area only in recent days, more than two weeks after the fire began on May 29. The people who have been questioned were encountered on the day the fire broke out.

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