PHOENIX – The biggest forest fire in Arizona history is all but contained, and authorities are shifting their focus to preventing massive flood damage as summer storms begin to hit.
The specialized firefighting management teams that had battled the blaze in eastern Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest pulled out Tuesday. Patrolling the completed fire lines and corralling the last 5 percent is now up to local forest officials and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
Officials say rains will be the next disaster to avert, since a substantial part of the fire area suffered severe soil damage. They say the worst runoff will happen where the fire burned the hottest and prevented the soil from absorbing rainfall.
Two other major fires that burned in recent weeks will raise the same concerns.
Apache County engineer Ferrin Crosby says a small thunderstorm Monday night quickly turned the Little Colorado River into a raging torrent. Such a storm normally wouldn't affect flows.