SEDONA, Ariz. (AP) – Firefighters battled a blaze burning in steep, rugged terrain that had grown to nearly 4,000 acres Friday and was not expected to be fully contained for several more days.

“This fire is like a caged-up coyote,” said Mike Dondero, deputy incident commander for the fire. “It’s trying to get out 24 hours a day.”

Officials said the blaze threatening this scenic community was 15 percent contained Friday morning, and full containment was predicted by June 28.

Firefighters were prepared to protect the roughly 460 homes and businesses in nearby Oak Creek Canyon that were evacuated after the fire began Sunday with a transient’s campfire, but the danger of wind from thunderstorms was in the forecast.

“That’s a red flag. That’s a watch-out situation,” said Mike Dondero, deputy incident commander for the fire. “It could hit and blow stuff all over the place.”

Nora Walker-Yeager, who was allowed to return to her Oak Creek Canyon home Thursday to pick up belongings, grabbed her wedding book, her husband’s wedding ring and her engagement ring.

“If it burns, we’ve got the things that are most important to us,” Walker-Yeager said.

In southern Colorado, a 13,100-acre wildfire was 35 percent contained. Residents from a 62-house subdivision were heading home Friday, and motorists were being allowed to travel again on U.S. 160, which had been closed since Monday.

Cafe owner Luisa Sena said she was relieved to learn the highway, the main east-west route across southern Colorado, was reopening because she depends on the summer months to make most of the money to pay her nine workers. Without any tourists or truckers passing along the highway through the town at the gateway to the historic San Luis Valley, business slowed to a standstill.

“It’s tough in the winter. It doesn’t need to be like this in the summer,” said Sena, owner of Lu’s Mainstreet CafDe in neighboring Blanca.

In western Colorado, a 1,530-acre wildfire started by a car wreck Tuesday was 25 percent contained. The fire was burning in juniper, oak and ponderosa pine in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, about 225 miles southwest of Denver near the Utah border.

Firefighters in New Mexico, facing fires that have scorched more than 70,000 acres, dealt with more hot weather Thursday, but forecasts of storms and erratic winds didn’t materialize.

The largest blaze – a 33,250-acre one in southwestern New Mexico – threatened cabins and other structures in the Willow Creek area.

“We have to take one day at a time,” fire information officer Brian Morris said. “We can plan for the future, but we still have to deal with today.”

In southern California, firefighters were holding their ground against a wildfire that has consumed nearly 15,000 acres of chaparral, pine and grasslands in Los Padres National Forest, officials said.

Fire crews prevented a 10-mile-long swath of flames from rolling over a ridge line bordering a wilderness area that has larger trees and brush, said Forest Service spokesman Joe Pasinato. The fire was 57 percent contained, officials said.

“Today was a key day,” said Pasinato. “The fire did not make any rapid advances.”



Associated Press Writer Colleen Slevin in Fort Garland, Colo., contributed to this report.



On the Net:

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

AP-ES-06-23-06 1403EDT


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