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Archive for Sunday, June 22, 2003

Arizona wildfire claims 6,300 acres — so far

June 22, 2003

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— The metal guardrails on the road leading to town are warped from the intense heat. Streets signs are blistered, the names on them illegible.

This is the view from Summerhaven two days after a wildfire roared through the mountaintop hamlet, destroying more than 250 homes.

By Saturday, the first chance the media was allowed to view the devastation, the fire had already destroyed 10 to 15 more homes in a nearby subdivision, fire officials said.

A broadcast transmission tower also was lost. Officials said the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley suffered no damage, contrary to early reports.

"I don't have a vocabulary big enough" to describe the damage, Gov. Janet Napolitano said after viewing Summerhaven from the air.

The emerging picture of the destruction comes as firefighters expect that it will take two to three more weeks to contain the blaze on Mount Lemmon, outside Tucson in southern Arizona, said Larry Humphrey, commander of the team battling the wildfire.

Crews concentrated on digging lines to protect the remaining homes in Summerhaven, along with other broadcast towers, said Heidi Schewel, a fire spokeswoman.

The fire had burned across more than 6,300 acres by Saturday and firefighters fear it will char tens of thousands more before it's stopped. The cause was still under investigation.

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