Jul 6, 7:58 AM EDT

New Wildfire Erupts in Arizona Forest

Associated Press Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- A wildfire tore through Ponderosa pine and brush in an Arizona national forest, about 250 miles north of another blaze that has destroyed more than 300 mountaintop homes and burned six cabins as it jumped into a new subdivision.

The new wildfire erupted Saturday night in the Prescott National Forest, forcing the evacuation of about 100 homes, said forest spokesman Steve Sams.

There are several hundred homes in the area, and as of early Sunday none had been burned. The blaze was about 30 percent contained.

The 2 1/2-week-old wildfire farther south in the Santa Catalina Mountains spread early Saturday through Willow Canyon, one of three areas threatened by the blaze that has scorched 70,000 acres. Firefighters managed to save about 60 cabins near the six that burned.

Firefighters set backfires and cleared brush to defend homes in other areas, as well as an observatory owned by the University of Arizona and an array of communication towers used by television stations and the Federal Aviation Administration. Several youth camps were also threatened.

Seven helicopters dropped water on the Santa Catalina fire throughout the day, and firefighters were able to keep the flames away from the Willow Canyon cabins and other structures. When the fire did make runs at developed areas, the flames hit the burned out areas and dropped to the ground, allowing firefighters to help stem the advance, said Pruett Small, fire operations section chief.

Firefighters were also aided by more favorable winds Saturday, Small added.

"It was a good day," Small said. "If we get through tomorrow, we're fairly confident these homes are secure."

The human-caused fire began on June 17 and destroyed 317 homes last month in and around the vacation hamlet of Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon. It had flared anew in stiff winds and skirted fire lines protecting developed areas southeast along the mountain. It was about 55 percent contained by late Saturday.

In northern New Mexico, calmer winds Saturday helped crews battling a mountain wildfire that had burned to within a half mile of Taos Pueblo and forced campers to evacuate.

The fire, which officials suspect was started by lightning, had covered more than 850 acres north of the resort town of Taos.

"The wind died down, and the fire died down with it," Ignacio Peralta, Carson National Forest fire information officer, said Saturday night. "We're really seeing almost no wind at all."


- Crews in northeast Washington were sent to a fast-moving fire on the Colville Reservation south of Johnny George Mountain. The Rattlesnake Canyon Fire was reported early Saturday and had grown to about 1,500 acres by the evening.

Additional crews were also sent to north central Washington to battle a complex of wildfires in remote, rugged terrain about 20 miles north of Winthrop. The largest blaze there covered 1,200 acres by Saturday.

- Campgrounds around Suttle Lake in central Oregon were evacuated Saturday after a wildfire spread to about 150 acres. Another fire in the region, which has burned more than 21,000 acres, was nearly contained by Saturday night.

- In Southern California, firefighters subdued a quick-moving wildfire Friday night after it burned 1,500 acres of brush in Riverside County. No buildings were damaged but 25 to 30 homes were evacuated as a precaution until the fire was contained.


On the Net:

National Interagency Fire Center: [url]http://www.nifc.gov/[/url

The Aspen fire burns in the mountains above Tucson, Ariz., Friday, July 4, 2003. The windblown wildfire that already has destroyed more than 300 mountaintop homes threatened dozens more and an observatory Friday as it burned through rugged terrain. (AP Photo/John Miller