Fire lines holding against wildfire near Show Low
Blaze within half-mile of evacuation threshold
The growth of a wildfire near Show Low slowed Thursday afternoon, but could still cross a threshold that would force authorities to order an evacuation for several communities in Navajo County.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, fire officials said that fire lines were holding after winds calmed throughout the day.
Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark said during a press conference that Thursday was a pivotal day, but that winds were "not as bad" and that back burns" by fighters had done their job.
"I think we're out of the woods," Clark said.
However, fire officials warned that the fire is within a half-mile of a trigger point that could require an evacuation of Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, McNary, Fort Apache and Hon-Dah.
The Cedar Fire began on Wednesday on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation about 10 miles south of Pinetop and rapidly grew, consuming nearly 5,400 acres by Thursday afternoon, said Navajo County officials.
Fire crews conducted burnouts along the north perimeter of the fire on Wednesday night, and Thursday afternoon, crews also set small fires along secondary roads that parallel Highway 60 to ensure the wildfire could not leap across the highway. However, a 17-mile section of Highway 60 is closed from the junction of Highway 60 and Highway 73 to just south of Show Low.
Winds were not as gusty on Thursday as they were on Wednesday when the fire broke out and quickly spread to 960 acres in three hours, and then to 2,560 acres by 5 p.m.
But fire officials warned that the fire is within a half-mile of a trigger point that could require an evacuation of Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, McNary, Fort Apache and Hon-Dah.
The Cedar Fire is one of five fires currently consuming wild lands in Arizona, and both California and New Mexico are also experiencing major wildfires requiring evacuations of hundreds of people.
In wilderness north of Santa Barbara, nearly 400 people were evacuated from their homes, while in central New Mexico, the Dog Head fire had pushed 200 people from homes.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he would travel to Show Low on Friday afternoon to receive a briefing on the fire and survey ongoing containment efforts, while Sen. John McCain sent a letter to the chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, pushing them to "deploy all necessary resources to combat the rapidly growing" wildfire.
In just the last 30 days, nearly two dozen wildfires have burned through more than 109,000 acres in Arizona.
Fire officials have attacked some of these fires with crews and aircraft. Other fires, including the Jack Fire in the Coconino National Forest — which has consumed about 34,000 acres — have been allowed to burn.
As fire officials noted on a briefing from Inciweb, a fire incident tracking system, fire managers with the Coconino National Forest are letting the recent lightning-caused fire to "benefit the landscape and maintain a healthy ecosystem by allowing fire to fulfill its natural role in the environment."