PRESCOTT, AZ - Fire officials continued to work overnight and into Saturday morning working to protect homes and subdivisions from a 10-mile-wide wildfire that sprung up 8 miles west of Prescott, and has forced the evacuation of hundreds in the area.
Fire crews got a bit of a break overnight as winds died down giving workers an edge to attack the flames with a more direct approach.
Residents in the area may notice more smoke filling the area, which could make it slightly more difficult to breath, as those low winds don't turn up the smoke as much. It's good news for fire crews and it allows them a chance to fight the fire head on.
Officials continued their remarks of "we're making progress" at a press conference Friday afternoon, where they said the fire has been 15 percent contained, an upgrade from yesterday's 10 percent.
As of Friday night, the fire has burned 6,732 acres.
Crews spent Friday continuing to protect evacuated homes and subdivisions, line construction and prepping lines for further burnout operations, if necessary.
Officials said no more people have been evacuated, but residents will not be able to return to their homes just yet. A timetable for when residents could return home was not given.
With the weather remaining hot, dry and windy, crews anticipate fire behavior to increase in the afternoon.
None of the more than 460 homes evacuated because of the Doce Fire have been destroyed, and no injuries have been reported. The blaze is anchored on the south end, and a line at the base of Little Granite Mountain is holding, said incident commander Tony Sciacca.
"We're happy to say that the anchor of the fire, the heel of the fire we've been talking about is secure," he said.
Air tankers have been dropping fire retardant to strengthen the containment lines and to create a barrier between homes and the blaze, but those resources were redirected Thursday to a much larger wildfire in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest. Four helicopters that have been dropping water over the fire remain.
Much of the activity on the Doce Fire that broke out Tuesday has been on the north end, threatening homes in the valley below Granite Mountain. Firefighters were installing sprinklers around people's homes as needed.
None of the evacuated residents have been able to return home, and new evacuations were ordered for the area east of Mint Creek.
When residents return, some will find charred trees and burn scars in their yards. Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said he was certain a string of homes and potentially some lives were going to be lost as he helped evacuate people earlier this week from Sundown Acres.
He said the fire had quickly moved off the mountain into the small neighborhood but firefighters worked hard to ensure that property and lives were spared.
"Those men and women are heroes," he said.
Wind gusts of around 30 mph will be the norm for the rest of the week, though the speeds will decrease slightly and humidity will go up, Sciacca said. Gusts of more than 30 mph would be particularly challenging for firefighters and could ground air support, Sciacca said.
He said he was looking to Mother Nature to cooperate so that he could report an even higher percentage of containment.
The Doce Fire isn't the largest wildfire to burn in Arizona so far this year, but it's been the most visible. It started Tuesday and quickly consumed parts of the Granite Mountain Wilderness and raced toward homes.
The fast-moving nature of the fire prompted Gov. Jan Brewer to issue an emergency declaration Thursday, freeing up $100,000 in emergency response and recovery aid. The declaration also allows the Arizona National Guard to be called in to protect life and property if needed.
Parts of the Prescott National Forest also have been closed, with the rest under fire restrictions. A local road on the south end of the fire was reopened Thursday to traffic.
Officials have estimated the cost of fighting the fire at $3.24 million, mostly because of the aircrafts in use.
Investigators said the Doce Fire was human-caused but haven't determined the exact source. They're asking anyone with information about suspicious activity that could be related to the fire to call law enforcement.
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