Arizona Wildfire Forces Hundreds To Evacuate

Updated: 06-19-2006 11:23:42 AM

Associated Press

Hundreds of homes and businesses were threatened early Monday by a wildfire that blackened 1,000 acres in northern Arizona's scenic Oak Creek Canyon.

The fire started Sunday afternoon and spread quickly through the parched region, forcing the evacuation of about 400 homes and businesses in Oak Creek Canyon and about 100 homes in five Sedona subdivisions.

Fire crews were positioned Monday to protect homes from the fire, which had burned to within a mile of some of the buildings.

"It's going to be quite a fight not to lose them," said Kristy Bryner, a fire information officer.

Oak Creek Canyon, more than 90 miles north of Phoenix, is home to hotels, resorts, stores and houses scattered across the area.

Helge Zipprich, who lives in a mobile home in Oak Creek Canyon, said he and his three sons were in Sedona on Sunday and didn't have time to return home for any of their belongings. He said the worst part was not knowing what was happening.

"If the fire does spread and gets my home, I wouldn't know," he said.

The fire ignited in a wooded area and quickly led to the evacuations in the Sedona subdivisions of Cibola Hills, Rim Shadows, Painted Cliff, Shadow Rock Circle and Casa Contenta. Evacuations followed in Oak Creek Canyon, between Sedona and Flagstaff.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

In southern Colorado, another wildfire grew to more than 400 acres early Monday, prompting officials to urge voluntary evacuations of the 246 homes in Forbes Park. The fire was reported shortly before noon on Sunday. No homes had been destroyed, and the cause of the fire was unknown.

Wildfires have burned more than 2.9 million acres nationwide this year, well ahead of the average of about 900,000 acres by this time of year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Huge grass fires that swept Texas and Oklahoma this spring account for a large part of this year's high acreage.
AP Photo/Khampha Bouaphanh
Arizona Ranger Sgt. Bill Lionberger tells a motorist to turn back at a road block in Sedona, Ariz., June 18.