Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
The focus of the battle against a massive wildfire burning in eastern Arizona shifted to New Mexico on Monday as crews lit fires around the town of Luna to stop the flames.
Efforts to stop the fire from spreading finally met with success over the weekend as high winds didn’t lead to major growth of the blaze that has been burning since Memorial Day.
Residents of two Arizona towns on the northern edge of the fire were allowed to go back home Sunday, and thousands streamed into Eagar and Springerville through the day. Fire crews have stopped its northern advance and are now trying to corral its eastern advance into New Mexico by burning a line in front of the fire that it can’t cross.
In Luna, N.M., about five miles from the Arizona line, crews lit fires around the town to keep the flames from getting into town, Catron County Undersheriff Ian Fletcher said Monday. The operation began Sunday night, and the 200 or so residents did not have to leave. Fletcher said an evacuation plan is in place in case the situation changes.
“It’s holding, and they’re pretty confident this morning,” Fletcher told The Associated Press.
“These guys are getting after it, it’s kinda neat to see,’ he said. “I was concerned earlier, but they seem to have it wrapped up pretty well, or it’s going well for them right now.”
Several other fires also were burning around Arizona on Monday, and a 2,700-acre wildfire near the New Mexico-Colorado border was threatening about 200 homes and businesses and forced the closure of Interstate 25.
The eastern Arizona fire had grown to 706 square miles by Monday morning, or more than 452,000 acres, and was 10 percent contained. But firefighters have been sounding increasingly confident at their daily briefings that their efforts were paying off.
The Wallow Fire is the second largest in state history, although it has burned only 31 homes and four commercial buildings, a fraction of the largest. That fire was the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski, which burned 732 square miles and destroyed 491 buildings.
Although about 7,000 residents of Eagar and Springerville were allowed to go home, about 2,700 others who live in several Arizona resort communities in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest remained under an evacuation order.
The hamlets of Alpine, Nutrioso and Greer were the largest, and fire officials said Monday they were working to make the areas safe for residents to go home, possibly later this week.
The dangers include burned trees that could snap or blow over in winds, said Mark Wade, commanding the fire effort in Greer.
That town, considered the jewel of eastern Arizona’s summer havens, lost more than 20 homes as flame moved into the valley last week. It includes lodges and hundreds of old and new cabins, including one owned by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who was forced to evacuate on June 4.
Despite losing the homes and a couple of dozen outbuildings, the fire did not move into the Greer valley itself.
“Greer is not as bad as a lot of people are making it sound to be,” wade said.
Other Arizona fires that continue burning include a huge blaze near the southeastern border town of Portal that has burned more than 232 square miles since it broke out May 8. It is about 50 percent contained. Another fire that broke out Sunday outside Sierra Vista near the Coronado National Memorial has forced evacuations.
The southern Colorado wildfire forced the evacuation of a church camp. Crews were attacking the fire near Westcliffe from the air Monday. It broke out Sunday afternoon and spread quickly in dry conditions. In southeastern Colorado, crews are close to containing three large wildfires that broke out last week.
Southbound Interstate 25 south of Trinidad is closed because of a wildfire burning in New Mexico near Raton Pass.
Interstate 25 remains closed through the Raton Pass of northeastern New Mexico because of a wildfire. The highway is closed from Trinidad, Colo., to Raton. New Mexico forestry officials say the Track fire has burned an estimated 2,700 acres.
Christie reported from Phoenix
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)