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Mon, Feb. 24

Air reinforcements help secure Palace Fire lines

PRESCOTT ­ Two heavy air tankers and two helicopters helped 175 ground firefighters bring the Palace Fire to 60-percent containment Thursday.

Fire managers said the containment line could be 100-percent secure as early as today.

And firefighters have completely snuffed out the 1.5-acre Sportsmen's Fire near a shooting range that briefly threatened Wildwood Estates subdivision homes on the northwest side of Prescott Wednesday.

Firefighters had the Sportsmen's Fire contained by 5 p.m. Wednesday and finished mopping up Thursday, Prescott Fire Chief Darrell Willis said.

The 924-acre Palace wildfire, which started Monday as a prescribed burn, is about 10 miles south of Prescott on the Prescott National Forest.

"Things are going well," said Jim Clawson, a recently retired law enforcement officer on the forest who is helping out as information officer when needed.

A section of Senator Highway (Prescott National Forest Road 52) between the historic Palace Station stage stop and Goodwin remains closed, as does the entire Forest Road 82 that runs south from Palace Station. The fire is burning between those roads that are acting as the northern break.

Firefighters first focused on the northern side of the blaze since the wind was blowing out of the southwest.

By Thursday they were focusing on the south side and reinforcing initial lines.

They also were working on a 10-acre fire that ignited when the main fire spotted outside the main line to the south, Clawson said.

The heavy air tankers came out of California and dropped retardant on the southern flank to help ground crews secure a line. The helicopters worked the same hand line with water.

The area is thick with dead pine trees from the 1972 Battle Fire and from the bark beetle epidemic earlier this century, Clawson said. It also has dense chaparral.

It's one of the most dangerous areas on the forest for a wildfire to ignite and eventually threaten Prescott if firefighters don't get a quick handle on it, Clawson said.

The firefighters will be spending lots of time putting out every hot spot to keep the blaze from popping up again later when the wildfire season gets more dangerous.

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com

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