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Apache Wildfire Contained

June 14, 1999

WHITERIVER, Ariz. (AP) _ A wildfire that charred more than 4,000 tribal acres has been contained. ``It’s time to start the healing process,″ said White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Dallas Massey.

About 800 air and ground crews finally contained the wildfire Sunday that destroyed 17 homes and forced 300 people to evacuate their homes on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Spehar said the evacuees were being allowed to return home and State Route 73 was reopened to traffic.

Gov. Jane Hull toured the fire site by helicopter Sunday, then met with Massey to offer support.

The wind-driven fire, north of Whiteriver and about 130 miles northeast of Phoenix, is believed to be man-made and an investigation is pending, Spehar said.

The fire had burned nearly seven square miles of ponderosa pine trees and heavy brush, consuming 4,163 acres before it stabilized. At one point, the flames stretched more than 400 feet into the air, Spehar said.

Although nobody was injured, the fire destroyed at least 17 homes and 13 additional outdoor structures, he said.

Jim Anderson, fire information director for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, said the blaze should be fully controlled ``by Wednesday or Thursday.″

The cost of putting the fire out has reached $750,000 already, according to Anderson, who estimated the final loss at around $3 million including land rehabilitation costs.

``This is not going to be a suitable habitat for species of wildlife that use mature and older forests,″ Anderson said.

Meanwhile, a 680-acre wildfire in Grand Canyon National Park continued to burn along the western and northern flanks, according to the National Park Service.

The fire was started June 3 by lightning and is being allowed to burn itself out.

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