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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Fight against Arizona fire shifts
Rubble left by fire west of Show Low, Arizona
More than 400 homes have been destroyed
Firefighters appear to have spared the Arizona town of Show Low, which had been threatened by the biggest wildfire in the state's history.

But the massive fire is continuing to burn out of control, and is moving toward another town on its western edge.

Fire crews that worked to save Show Low, just east of the fire, will now be moved to the other side of the blaze, which covers 166,800 hectares (417,000 acres).

Launch new window : US Fires
In pictures: Fighting the wildfires

"It's really cooled down" in Show Low, said fire-crew spokesman Tom Paxon.

Some of the 30,000 people forced to flee the area - including about 8,000 people from Show Low - will soon be allowed back into their homes, or what is left of them.

But it was a different story just 60 kilometres west of Show Low in the town of Forest Lakes, where the raging blaze is less than six kilometres away.

Arizona burning
Now covers 166,800 hectares (417,000 acres)
More than 30,000 evacuees
More than 400 homes burnt down

Fire crews were using bulldozers to create a fire line, and planes dropped slurry on the flames from overhead.

"You need to keep your fingers crossed that we're going to pull this off," Kim Martin, the commander overseeing the fire's western edge, told residents at an evacuation shelter.

"All bets are off right now. We've got a lot of country, a lot of timber, a lot of fuel and a lot of heat."

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It looked like a scene from Dante's inferno

Phil Briers, Arizona

In places west of Show Low where the fire struck, its handiwork can now be seen.

Scores of houses are now blackened wrecks.

Some of their owners will get their first look at the damage on Saturday, officials said.

But many in evacuation shelters said they had no idea whether their houses were still standing, or when they will be allowed back.

"Is it going to be a month? Do we get back tomorrow? That's the part that's hard," said Nan Pociask, who fled her home in the town of Heber-Overgaard, 56 kilometres west of Show Low, last week.

Firefighter near Show Low, Arizona
Fire crews are now moving the fire's western edge
Especially hard-hit was the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, a group of small communities which relies on lumber and tourism for most of its livelihood and lies about 25 km south of Show Low.

"There goes our food. There go our car payments. There go our truck payments. How to rebound from it I do not know," said Andrew Kinney, a White Mountain tribal spokesman.

He said the flames had destroyed $200m worth of wood, which would devastate the 17,000-strong community's economy. But no homes were lost.

Disaster area

US President George Bush visited the region last week before heading to Canada for the G8 summit, and declared a "major disaster" in the area, freeing up federal recovery funds.

Other fires in the US also continued to burn, with firefighters in Colorado close to claiming victory over the flames that once threatened Denver's southern suburbs.

But another Colorado wildfire, burning north of Durango, has grown to the size of 28,400 hectares and firefighters say they have only 30% of it contained.

That fire has destroyed about 57 homes, and still threatens about 600 others.

A smaller wild fire near San Bernandino, California, believed to have been started by a car fire, is also said to be 30% contained after it forced dozens of people to flee their homes.

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