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Residents of Pine return home after wildfire evacuation

June 26, 2021 GMT

PINE, Ariz. (AP) — Residents of a small central Arizona community were allowed to return home Saturday after being evacuated because of a wildfire, authorities said.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Department lifted the evacuation order for Pine but said residents should be prepared to leave again if necessary. Meanwhile, residents of Strawberry and Hunt Ranch remain evacuated.

The wildfire has burned nearly 64 square miles (165 square kilometers) of mixed vegetation about 12 miles (19 kilometers) west of Pine and Strawberry. The communities have a combined population of about 3,000 people.

The fire has been burning for more than a week in an area where six firefighters were killed in June 1990 while battling another lightning-sparked blaze, the Dude Fire.

“We honor their memory by learning from the tragedy and striving to not let such an event happen again,” fire officials said in a statement Saturday.

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More than 700 firefighters were working on the current fire, aided by aircraft. The fire was 13% contained Saturday.

Other wildfires are burning in Arizona, including one southwest of Flagstaff that was pushing smoke into the Prescott area. Crews were fighting it from the ground and air, using helicopters and drones to keep it from advancing toward Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Williams.

It has burned 71 square miles (185 square kilometers) with no containment.

Dozens of rural ranches and other homes have been evacuated, and others are in various stages of preparedness.