AZ fire situation improves

Much-welcomed rain arrived in Arizona Friday, helping firefighters battle the large blazes that have threatened an observatory and some mountain communities.

BY SUSAN KIM | SAFFORD, Ariz. | July 9, 2004


Much-welcomed rain arrived in Arizona Friday, helping firefighters battle the large blazes that have threatened an observatory and some mountain communities.

Rain was expected to continue into the weekend.

Some 1,800 firefighters were battling the two large blazes. One was threatening the small cabin community of Turkey Flat, as well as a $200 million mountaintop observatory. That blaze was less than a mile from the observatory and less than two miles from Turkey Flat, a community of 74 cabins where firefighters focused much of their efforts.

Crews were trying to save structures by wrapping sheets of aluminum around them, removing heavy vegetation, and drenching cabins with watesr.

A 200-foot-wide clearing surrounds the observatory, an extension of the University of Arizona, and the site's metal structures should withstand embers from the blaze, said fire officials. But smoke and heat could damage the delicate instruments inside. The observatory is home to some of the world's most powerful telescopes.

Both fires were 25 percent contained by Friday.

Elsewhere in Arizona, a fire blackened 90,500 acres of the Tonto National Forest near Payson, a town of some 14,000 people. The blaze was not threatening any homes or communities as of Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile in central Washington state, firefighters were battling two wildfires that have burned nearly 10,000 acres near Lake Chelan.

High winds could blow one of the fires toward houses and other structures, and officials recommended evacuation to residents of about 45 homes.

In Alaska, evacuation orders remained in effect Tuesday for 277 homes threatened by a 307,000-acre fire north of Fairbanks.


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