SAFFORD, Ariz. (AP) – Scattered rain showers Friday helped firefighters trying to stop a pair of wildfires that were threatening a multimillion dollar observatory and nearly 100 summer homes.

Light rain fell Thursday and Friday, giving firefighters a break by raising humidity levels and slowing the growth of the two fires crossing Mount Graham. More rain was forecast through the weekend.

The fires, which were 35 percent contained, have charred about 25,730 acres on Mount Graham since lightning sparked them in late June.

High temperatures and low humidity had been driving the wildfires threatening the Mount Graham International Observatory, Turkey Flat and Columbine, a community of about 15 cabins.

Fire managers said Friday they believed they could save the 74 cabins in Turkey Flat, which were in greater danger than those in Columbine.

“It seems like we’re going to be dodging that bullet,” said Dean McAlister, fire management officer for the Coronado National Forest.

Deputy Incident Commander Paul Summerfelt said the showers helped reduce the risk to the observatory, an advanced astronomy facility run by the University of Arizona. He cautioned, however, that fire crews weren’t in the clear yet.

“We can’t take our eyes off what’s there,” Summerfelt said.

Homeowners said they were encouraged by the wet weather.

“I slept good last night,” said Vaughn Grant, who has owned his Turkey Flat cabin for five years.

One fire, which has burned 16,300-acres, remained within a quarter-mile of the observatory. The second fire, which has burned 9,400 acres, remained about 1½ miles from Columbine.

The observatory was nearly surrounded by lines cut by bulldozers and reinforced with burned out areas and a sprinkler system.

McAlister said midday Friday those protective measures had largely ended the risk to the observatory.

In north-central Washington state, one of two wildfires burning near Lake Chelan was declared fully contained. The second fire was 40 percent contained Friday and was threatening no homes, officials said.



On the Net:

Mount Graham Observatory: http://mgpc3.as.arizona.edu

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

Southwest Wildland Fires: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire/

AP-ES-07-09-04 2057EDT


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