Arizona Residents Might Return Home After Blaze Sweeps Area

Some of the residents evacuated from scenic Oak Creek Canyon because of a 4,200-acre wildfire were allowed to return to their homes Saturday as crews reinforced their lines around the blaze, officials said.

Residents of roughly 430 homes and 30 businesses lining the narrow canyon in northern Arizona have been forced to stay elsewhere for nearly a week and were told Friday that they might be allowed to return in two to four days.

On Saturday, however, the evacuation order was lifted for about 75 homes and four resorts north of Slide Rock State Park, said Jon Paxton, a deputy with the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. Because the canyon highway remained closed south of the park, evacuees who had been staying in Sedona faced a detour of about 45 miles to the Flagstaff area and then back down into the canyon from the north.

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Crews had become confident that two days of work to strengthen the lines keeping flames from moving farther north up the canyon had been successful.

"Things are actually looking quite well," said David Eaker, a fire information officer. "They've just done a lot of good work."

No homes have burned. Officials said the fire was 20 percent contained, with full containment predicted by Wednesday, barring any weather disturbances that could push the flames.

"It's still not a done deal," incident commander Paul Broyles said late Friday. "I'm not going to guarantee we've completely turned the corner just yet."

The fire started June 18 north of Sedona as a transient's campfire. About 720 firefighters have been clearing brush, wetting down buildings and setting backfires to remove fuel from the fire's path.

It is the second fire in the Sedona area, about 90 miles north of Phoenix, in the past month. An 836-acre wildfire destroyed five buildings near the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona, in early June and forced the evacuation of about 200 people.