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Hardy fire evacuations lifted; transient arrested

Hardy fire evacuations lifted; transient arrested

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Residents off Herold Ranch Road and the Sinagua Heights neighborhood in Flagstaff evacuated ahead of the Hardy fire were allowed to return home Sunday afternoon.

The Coconino Humane Association animal shelter also was reopened.

Meanwhile, police have arrested a transient man on wildland burning charges in connection with the fire.

During a press conference Sunday afternoon, Capt. Mark Johnson of the Flagstaff Fire Department said that as of 5 p.m., residents of the two areas were allowed to return back to their homes. Additionally, standby evacuation notices for neighboring areas were also rescinded.

"We feel like we've got a pretty good handle on it," Johnson said.

Johnson said the 300-acre Hardy fire is about 25 percent contained, and that resources not needed were diverted to the Schultz fire.

The Hardy fire is located south of the Little America Hotel.

MISDEMEANOR CHARGES FILED

Sunday morning, Flagstaff police arrested a transient California man on misdemeanor charges in connection with starting the Hardy fire.

Lt. Ken Koch of the Flagstaff Police Department said U.S. Forest Service Officials, in searching for the point of origin of the fire off J.W. Powell Boulevard, came upon two transients in the area where the fire started.

One transient ran from officers, but a second transient told investigators that he and the man who ran away had been camping in the area, Koch said.

According to information from the police department, the suspect had made a small fire for cooking and later dumped hot coals from the fire underneath an open grill on the ground.

A witness gave police the suspect's name, and investigators tracked the man down Sunday morning. He was brought to the police station and questioned, Koch said, adding that the man made statements implicating himself.

The suspect, Randall W. Nicholson, 54, had been warned several times prior to Saturday of the city's camping ordinance, Koch said.

Police officials had been working forest patrols in the last 30 days locating transient camps and telling the occupants about the city's ordinance against camping in the city limits, Koch said.

Nicholson is being held in the county jail in lieu of $2,500 bond.

EVACUATION ORDER IMPERSONATORS

Koch also said that police received calls of a man and a woman going from door to door in neighborhoods that were not slated for evacuation telling residents that they are being evacuated.

The reason, investigators believe, is for the couple to get residents to leave so that they can stage residences for burglary.

Koch added that official evacuation notifications are made from uniformed personnel with appropriate credentials. Residents are asked to report suspicious activity to the police department at 774-1414.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.

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