Washington – Firefighters are beginning to control the biggest forest fire in Arizona history, which up to now has laid waste to more than 157,000 hectares (388,000 acres) and has displaced thousands of people, authorities said Friday.
The Arizona Department of Transportation said the blaze has cut off traffic from some 320 kilometers (200 miles) of highways in the eastern part of the state.
About 5,000 people had to evacuate their houses due to a series of wildfires that have devastated the area since the end of May, though many have since been able to return home.
In the last few hours, weather conditions have begun to aid the work of hundreds of firefighters and National Guard soldiers, particularly since the winds have died down.
Several days previously, winds of up to 55 kph (34 mph) were blowing, which combined with the low humidity helped spread the flames quickly.
When the winds dropped on Wednesday to below 40 kph (25 mph), teams of firefighters, soldiers and volunteers opened lines of containment on the northern front of the wildfire, and Friday morning for the first time authorities could say that 5 percent of the blaze had been brought under control.
Gentler breezes also allowed authorities to use a DC-10 airplane especially equipped to unload up to 45,500 liters (12,000 gallons) of chemical flame retardant on each flight.
The fire has destroyed or damaged dozens of public infrastructure works and homes, and in recent hours has forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents from communities that include Alpine, Greer, Nutrioso, Eagar and Springerville.
Incident Commander Joe Reinarz said that the approximately 300 people who took shelter in the auditorium of Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside will be able to return to their homes in Springerville and Eagar tomorrow.
Reinarz added that residents of Alpine and Nutriso can plan to return home in four to five days.