Slide Fire update: Oak Creek Canyon fire at 75 percent containment

SEDONA, AZ - The fire still smoldering in and around northern Arizona's Oak Creek Canyon now is 75 percent contained, but use of Highway 89A was restricted Friday as utility crews moved poles and worked to restore electricity in the affected area.

Crews were working along the Slide Fire's perimeter while interior areas of the fire continued to smolder.

The 33.1-square-mile Slide Fire began May 20 near Slide Rock State Park in the scenic canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff and about 300 residents and business owners had to evacuate.

ABC15 surveyed the damage in Oak Creek Canyon Friday afternoon.

A drive on Hwy. 89A brings with it a sharp contrast; the east canyon is green and looks normal, while large swaths of the west canyon are charred.

“I thought [the lodge] was a goner, for sure,” said Mary Garland, co-owner of Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge.  The lodge’s property was ringed with singed earth; the flames were feet from overtaking the lodge’s grass, trees, and buildings.

Authorities said the fire is believed to be human caused and remains under investigation.

The cost of fighting the fire is estimated at $8 million.

An evacuation order for canyon residents and business owners was lifted Thursday and many people began heading back to their property.

About 300 residents and business owners had to evacuate days after the fire broke.

Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Erika Wiltenmuth said that if residents don't find significant damage and want to remain in their homes, they are free to do so. But they cannot go onto forested areas, which authorities have declared off-limits.

Electricity was expected to be restored to all homes in the affected fire area by late Friday afternoon.

About 150 Arizona Public Service employees have been working to bring back power. So far, about 90 of 236 Oak Creek Canyon customers have been reconnected to electricity, utility officials said.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office said they have scheduled re-entry into the southern end of Oak Creek Canyon to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday.

However, the Arizona Department of Transportation will continue with planned highway construction, closing State Route 89A through the switchbacks from north of the Pine Flat Campground to the Vista Overlook. The section of highway will be closed for several weeks.

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