8 p.m. update: Slide fire hits 7,500 acres with 5 % containment

2014-05-22T19:56:00Z 8 p.m. update: Slide fire hits 7,500 acres with 5 % containmentBy ERIC BETZ Sun staff reporter Arizona Daily Sun
May 22, 2014 7:56 pm  • 

The Slide fire continues to grow, as the blaze chews through some of Arizona’s most precious terrain. It has now reached 7,500 acres, with only about 5 percent containment, according to officials.

The risk to Kachina Village was “significantly reduced” as a result of firefighter efforts to doze, dig and backburn fire lines, fire managers announced at a meeting tonight at Sinagua Middle School.

No structures or campgrounds have burned and no injuries have been reported. But that does not mean the cessation of fire activity.

The number of firefighting personnel has now hit 850, as additional firefighters and fire engines arrived today. A total of 20 hot shot crews are now working the fire. Heavy aircraft were expected to drop water and retardant throughout the day, but by late afternoon winds in excess of 30 mph had the aircraft grounded once again.

As some areas calmed, the burn intensity continued to be high in others, including in West Fork, throughout Sterling Canyon, and along the flats above the western slope of Oak Creek Canyon. A wind shift has also pushed the fire into the Secret Mountain Wilderness.

And while much of the damage continued to be cloudy for the region’s pristine hiking, swimming and biking trails, the toll became clearer Thursday.

Looking out across the switchbacks on Highway 89A from the overlook, the upper reaches of Oak Creek Canyon remain largely untouched by fire. But just west of the switchbacks, the remote and rarely visited Sterling Canyon was an inferno again on Thursday, continuing to see some of the most intense activity of the Slide fire.

Crews today pushed the fire line toward Woody Mountain Road -- Forest Service Road 231. Their hope is to limit the Slide fire’s advance on its western front as the flames push out on the flat land.

Under ideal conditions, without any extreme winds or fire behavior, the fire managers said it would take more than a week to get a line around the entire fire.

The planned line encompassing the entire Slide fire stretches from the west side of Highway 89A just above Slide Rock State Park, north to the top of the switchbacks, then west along Forest Service Road 535 as far as Woody Mountain Road, and back south along that road down to the East Pocket Lookout.

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