PRESCOTT, AZ - Firefighters got a big handle on an 11-square-mile wildfire that erupted earlier this week near Prescott, announcing that it has been 40 percent contained.
Some evacuations and restrictions were lifted at 5 p.m. on Saturday. However, officials urged residents to remain "cautious" as the wildfire still has the capability to produce significant heat and have flare ups. In addition, fire crews and equipment will still be in the area.
Spokesman Bill Morse said fire crews were able to get "boots on the ground" overnight to attack the fire head on and build up those fire lines as winds tended to calm down. No more acreage was burned either. It remains at 6,732 acres.
The first injury in the wildlife relief efforts was a minor abrasion injury, according to an emailed update Saturday morning.
Morse said they were able to use aviation tactics to drop water on hot spots and use fire retardant to help "corral" the fire.
One of the reasons good progress has been made fighting the fire is that air crews have easy access to water.
Helicopters flew in and out of the Granite Lake area, dipping buckets into the lake and dumping water on the fire. They can pick up 12,000 to 20,000 pounds of water on each trip, one official said.
Fire spokesman John Helmich told ABC15, the helicopters "go as many times as possible before they have to fuel up again."
But Bill Morse was cautious to not be too confident as crews expected winds to pick up Saturday afternoon which can cause the wildfire to change behavior and potentially increase.
A community meeting is scheduled to be held at the Prescott High School auditorium on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Officials continued their remarks of "we're making progress" at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Crews spent Friday continuing to protect evacuated homes and subdivisions, line construction and prepping lines for further burnout operations, if necessary.
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. 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 were 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 remained.
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.
When residents return, some will find charred trees and burn scars in their yards.
Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said the fire had quickly moved off the mountain into the small neighborhood of Sundown Acres 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 aircraft 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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