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Arizona wildfire only 5% contained, but weather forecast brings hope

7,500 acres, or nearly 12 square miles, of an Arizona canyon turned to ashes by wildfire

Fire officials in Arizona said increasing humidity Friday is helping their battle against a wildfire that has ravaged a popular sightseeing destination and put several thousand residents on edge, prepared for evacuation if the wind turns on the blaze.

By Friday morning, the Slide fire had burned 7,500 acres of timber and chaparral through about 10 miles of a red-rock canyon north of Slide Rock State Park in Sedona. Authorities have contained about 5% of blaze, which erupted Tuesday afternoon. Now, the forecast of thunderstorms and growing humidity through the weekend has given them hope they can quickly gain the upper hand. 

Firefighters have used back burns to hold the fire’s northeastern perimeter, the edge that threatens homes about five miles away in Kachina Village and Forest Highlands. Steep terrain and flames soaring tens of feet into the air have limited the ability to combat the fire on some other corners.

A videographer who took a distant time-lapse of the billowing smoke described the canyon as a "hot cauldron."

No one has been injured and no structures damaged by the Slide fire. But 300 homes, resort cabins and other buildings remain evacuated.  

The fire has thwarted Memorial Day weekend plans for some people heading into the Sedona and Flagstaff areas. Officials called a community meeting for 4 p.m. Friday to discuss safety issues. The poor air quality has prompted warnings for people susceptible to respiratory illness to avoid the outdoors. And the forecast of thunderstorms could lead to flash food warnings on denuded hillsides.

Authorities have not announced plans to open the main route between Sedona and Flagstaff, State Route 89A, which has been closed since the blaze began.

On Friday, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors indefinitely banned open fires, campfires and fireworks within county limits.

“Due to recent events in Coconino County and Northern Arizona, as well as the extremely dangerous and life-threatening fire conditions throughout the county, the board has decided to take this necessary action,” Matt Ryan, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement. “Given the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, our board felt the most prudent action was to impose this ban to help remove this potential threat and avoid additional devastating wildfires in our communities.”

Authorities were still seeking tips Friday on what may have caused the Slide fire. Natural causes are not suspected.

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