Some Evacuated Arizona Residents Could Go Home Friday Despite Wildfire

Residents who have spent this week in Red Cross shelters while their homes were threatened by a 6,200-acre wildfire will likely be allowed to return home Friday evening, authorities said.

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest spokesman Bob Dyson said crews battling the Potato Fire 140 miles northeast of Phoenix had it 80 percent contained Friday morning and expected full control by Saturday evening.

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Residents of 26 homes in the Chevelon Retreat and Chevelon Acres subdivisions about 10 miles north of mountain community of Heber had been ordered out Monday, and Dyson said most spent the nights in a Red Cross shelter in Heber.

To the south in Alpine, a fire that broke out Thursday afternoon was still burning out of control Friday morning, although Dyson said crews stopped the forward progress with bulldozers and backfires overnight.

The 1,300-acre fire was burning south of Josh Place, a 40-acre stretch of private land which contained three residences and some outbuildings. The overnight work lessened the risk to those buildings. Highway 191 will remain closed between Alpine and Hannigan Meadow because the fire is on both sides of the road, Dyson said.

A third large fire 60 miles east of the northeastern Arizona city of Page was up to 3,000 acres Thursday night and still only 5 percent contained, officials said.

Also Thursday, officials in Flagstaff allowed residents of about 1,000 homes evacuated Wednesday afternoon back into their neighborhoods.

A fire that broke out in a pine forest along Interstate 40 about 4 p.m. Wednesday had forced the evacuations because high winds were pushing the blaze toward homes.

Seven air tankers and dozens of fires crews stopped the flames before they entered the home sites, and when high winds didn't kick them back up again Thursday afternoon, the evacuees were allowed to go back home.