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Arizona wildfire doesn't grow; evacuations remain

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Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2014 1:23 pm

VERNON, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters battling a blaze in eastern Arizona's White Mountains are taking advantage of another day without much growth to build containment lines around the blaze.

The fire has charred nearly 8 square miles, and none of the human-caused blaze has been brought under control.

Fire officials say they expected that to change Sunday as crews clean up smoldering stumps and trees on the eastern flank and conduct burnout operations on the western side.

The weather doesn't seem to be helping or hindering efforts, but temperatures are expected to reach 85 degrees.

Authorities say evacuations remain in effect for summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead areas, and more than 90 structures in three communities could be threatened. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A wildfire that has charred nearly 8 square miles in eastern Arizona's White Mountains was holding steady, though the human-caused blaze has not been brought under control at all, officials said.

The fire has not grown and crews have made headway with burnout operations and retardant drops as winds that have whipped the flames in recent days slowed, Bill Morse, spokesman for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, said Saturday evening.

Communities mostly populated with summer homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders because of the fire about 135 miles east of Phoenix, near the New Mexico line, which was reported around noon Thursday. There have been no reported injuries, and no new evacuations or notices to be ready to flee have been issued.

A total of 37 summer homes in the Red Cabin Ranch, Carlock Ranch and Whiting homestead areas remained evacuated as a precaution, and authorities said more than 90 structures in three communities could be threatened. Those structures include homes, barns and sheds.

Morse revised estimates of the number of people who evacuated, saying 25 left the area southeast of Vernon.

Residents packed a community meeting Saturday evening, where incident commander Matt Reidy said forest-thinning work that has been done in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests helped firefighters.

But an area of mixed conifer that wasn't thinned has burned through, he said.

There are heavy fuel sources on the west side of the fire, which crews are targeting, Morse said. Although there is much fuel and rough terrain, winds are pushing away from the western flank.

"Nature has given us a little break," Morse said, adding winds are likely to be calm overnight and Sunday.

That reprieve comes ahead of problematic dry lightning storms that Morse expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fire remained zero percent contained, but crews are confident about the east and south flanks and plan to attack the blaze directly on the northeast side, where it had been spreading in previous days. Earlier, flames jumped containment lines on the eastern flank.

Nine Hotshot crews, 12 engines, five heavy air tankers and a helicopter were fighting the fire on part of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and in the national forest.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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