The Latest: Evacuations lifted at Utah wildfire

AP News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2016 5:51 PM
The Latest: Evacuations lifted at Utah wildfire

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on wildfires burning across the West (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

Authorities are lifting evacuations at a small mountain town near a southern Utah wildfire.

Firefighting officials said Thursday that the blaze isn't under control yet and Pine Valley residents may be asked to leave again, but it's now safe enough for people to return home.

The lightning-sparked wildfire has torched more than a square mile of rugged terrain about 35 miles north of St. George since it started June 13. The evacuations of about 100 homes were ordered Tuesday.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has said that those evacuations could have been avoided if drones flying in the area hadn't grounded firefighting aircraft earlier in the week.

Pine Valley is about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.

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2:30 p.m.

Fire crews are responding in New Mexico to a small mountain wildfire within the municipal watershed for the city of Santa Fe.

Authorities warned Thursday that the fire has the potential to grow quickly because it is located in a wilderness portion of the watershed where vegetation has not been thinned. It is less than 1/10 of a square mile.

The Santa Fe watershed feeds into reservoirs that supply water to irrigation ditches and a municipal water treatment plant.

The Santa Fe Fire Department says a helicopter has arrived and ground crews have been dispatched to the McClure Fire in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the boundary of the Pecos Wilderness.

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11:53 a.m.

Fire crews in north-central Nevada have fully contained a 100-acre wildfire in a remote area north of Gabbs about 120 miles east of Carson City.

The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center said Thursday a fire line has been drawn completely around the blaze in grass and brush near Lodi Valley.

The fire was reported shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Crews halted the advance of the flames overnight and remained on the scene Thursday mopping up and putting out hotspots.

No homes or structures were threatened. But fire officials cautioned that a "red flag warning" remains in effect for the area until 9 p.m. Thursday due to gusty winds and low relative humidity.

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11:45 a.m.

Damage assessments of a wildfire that's charred 28 square miles in central New Mexico are expected to start in the coming days.

Spokesman Karen Takai says assessors could begin their work in the Manzano Mountains southeast of Albuquerque as early as Thursday or Friday morning.

One of the focuses will be an area near the community of Chilili, where 24 homes and numerous other structures were destroyed. Takai says the assessors need to make sure the area is cool enough to walk through.

Fire activity in recent days has lessened thanks to cloud cover, high humidity and some rain. Forecasters are predicting more rain Thursday afternoon and again Sunday.

The blaze is nearly 70 percent contained.

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11 a.m.

Officials say illegal drones are hampering efforts to contain a wildfire threatening communities in eastern Arizona.

Navajo County spokesman Adam Wolfe said Thursday that drone operators have been flying near the roughly 70-square-mile blaze. Airspace over the fire, which is 2 ½ miles north of the Cedar Creek community, is under a temporary flight restriction.

Wolfe says officials plan to arrest anyone caught flying a drone and seize the device. Drones force air crews working on the wildfire to stay grounded.

More than 15,000 people in Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low, along with others in the surrounding communities, have been warned to be prepared to evacuate.

The fire that began June 15 is partially contained and its cause is under investigation.

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9:25 a.m.

Authorities say a southern Utah wildfire that's forced evacuations at a small mountain town is spreading, and people flying drones in the area are part of the problem.

Firefighting officials say one drone came within feet of a firefighting helicopter and could have killed the flight crew.

Drones have been seen three times in three days, forcing crews to ground firefighting aircraft. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert visited the site near Pine Valley on Wednesday and said the evacuations might not have been necessary without drone interruptions.

The Washington County Sheriff is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to arrest whoever is flying the drones.

The lightning-sparked fire has now touched more than one square mile of rugged terrain about 35 miles north of St. George.

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8:40 a.m.

A wildfire in northern Colorado has increased to 11 square miles, and firefighters are trying to keep it from spreading to ranches and homes to the south and east near the Colorado-Wyoming line.

Routt National Forest spokesman Aaron Voos says more firefighters are on the line Thursday. Voos says there are a number of fires that have broken out across the West, and fire commanders are competing for resources.

Voos says a number of campers have been evacuated from the national forest, but no other evacuations have been ordered.