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Wildfires continue

Hard work by firefighters Thursday in Arizona helped keep the Willow wildfire largely at bay.

BY HEATHER MOYER | PAYSON, Ariz. | July 2, 2004

Hard work by firefighters Thursday in Arizona helped keep the Willow wildfire largely at bay. The 43,000-acre fire is still only 5 percent contained but officials seemed positive and realistic.

"The lines held well yesterday," said a spokesperson for the Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team in Arizona. "But, this is a day-to-day thing. Some thunderstorms are possible tonight, and that could create erratic winds."

The blaze is still very close to Payson, a community of 14,000 people some 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. According to the incident management team, firefighters are creating a fire line between the blaze and the city to help head off the fire before it hits the city. There was still no immediate threat to Payson, though, as of Friday morning.

The city is preparing just in case, with officials helping survey the city to make sure it would be ready.

Severe weather wasn't helping the 925 firefighters assigned to the Willow Fire. The extremely dry conditions heighten the possibility of sparking new fires. Workers running the bulldozers creating fire lines have to be careful. In the past few days, the bulldozers have hit several rocks, generating sparks that have then caused small fires. Fortunately, all of those smaller fires have been extinguished.

Huge wildfires continue to scorch Alaska as well. Hundreds of residents from small communities north of Fairbanks were still evacuated as the 225,000-acre Boundary fire creeps closer to homes. More than 200 workers from a local goldmine were evacuated as well.

Fire officials are saying the major problem in Fairbanks right now is the overwhelming smoke. The smoke from some 60 wildfires across the state is visible even from space.

Wildfires just west of Reno, Nev., are also causing smoke problems in the city. The fire moved closer to homes Thursday, but no evacuations have occurred yet.

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