Residents of about 430 homes and 30 businesses lining the narrow canyon in northern Arizona have been forced to stay elsewhere for nearly a week and were told Friday they might be allowed to return in two to four days.
Yesterday, the evacuation order was lifted for about 75 homes and four resorts north of Slide Rock State Park, said Jon Paxton, a deputy with the Coconino County sheriff's office. Because the canyon highway remained closed south of the park, evacuees who had been staying in Sedona faced a detour of about 45 miles.
Crews had become confident that two days of work to strengthen the lines keeping flames from moving farther north up the canyon had been successful.
``Things are actually looking quite well," said David Eaker, a fire information officer. ``They've just done a lot of good work."
No homes have burned. Officials said the fire was 20 percent contained, with full containment predicted by Wednesday, barring any weather disturbances that could push the flames.
``It's still not a done deal," incident commander Paul Broyles said late Friday.
The fire started June 18 at a campfire near the Brins Mesa Trail, north of Sedona. About 720 firefighters have been clearing brush, wetting down buildings, and setting backfires to remove fuel from the fire's path.
It is the second fire in the Sedona area, about 90 miles north of Phoenix, in the past month. An 836-acre wildfire destroyed five buildings near the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona, in early June.
Elsewhere, a nearly 48,000-acre blaze in southwestern New Mexico's Gila National Forest was 10 percent contained yesterday. It had destroyed a cabin and was threatening about 80 other structures. It was started by a campfire, forest officials said.
In Southern California, a 15,000-acre wildfire in Los Padres National Forest was 78 percent contained and crews hoped to have it fully contained today, a US Forest Service statement said. The blaze 45 miles east of Santa Maria was started Monday by an electrical short circuit, and had destroyed two sheds and three oil company trailers.
Wildfires have charred nearly 3.2 million acres nationwide this year, well ahead of the average of just over 1 million acres by this time, the National Interagency Fire Center reported. Huge grass fires that swept through Texas and Oklahoma this spring account for much of the increase.