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Eagle Rock Fire Too Close for Comfort

By Laurel Morales

Parks, AZ – People in the community of Parks worry about their homes as firefighters work to suppress a wildfire that continues to devour the forest nearby. The so-called Eagle Rock fire has burned more than a thousand acres of steep, dense forest about 11 miles northeast of Williams. With calm winds Thursday fire crews were expected to get a better handle on the blaze. Arizona Public Radio's Laurel Morales reports.

Jill Maheu points to her ranch that sits just on the edge of the fire. A cloud of billowing smoke pours out of the Sitgreaves Mountain and onto her ranchland where her horses grazed.

MAHEU: I'm pretty angry because this fire was called into the Kaibab Dispatch office Tuesday. They didn't get out here until yesterday morning saying they couldn't find it.

The forest service is looking into their dispatch records. They initially responded Wednesday morning. It took two hours to spot the fire. And firefighters responded immediately. Maheu and about 60 other families were told to evacuate Wednesday. As she watches the forest burn adjacent to her ranch from the road, Maheu wonders why it appears that more isn't being done.

MAHEU: We heard on the news this morning they were planning on bringing in all kinds of support. We haven't seen anything as far as this flare up right here on the other side of my ranch.

Four hotshot crews, 16 engines, two water tenders, three helicopters, one dozer, and several individual firefighters are working the blaze.

Kaibab National Forest spokeswoman Punky Moore says Wednesday's hot, dry and windy conditions made the fire difficult to fight.

MOORE: We do there's quite a bit of activity with the air tankers. And the fire activity is picking up also. They're digging line and doing what they can to get some containment until we see lines hold well especially with the kind of fire behavior we're seeing with the torching and the spotting that is a concern to make sure the lines we can get in can actually hold.

A few miles away at the Parks Feed and Mercantile Tina Campbell stops in to get the latest on the fire.

CAMPBELL: It's really alarming and one of our good friends thought he lost his house yesterday. And that just gives you something in the pit of your stomach. You just feel awful.

Campbell and her husband hike the forest and hate to see it burn.

CAMPBELL: Oh it's dreadful. I had a hard time not getting welled up because it's not going to come back for a long time.

Campbell says the community has come together to help out people who were evacuated. Fire officials expect another front to bring strong wind gusts this weekend so they hope to get ahead of the fire soon.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Parks.