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Charles Molineaux: Reprieve for Arizona town?

CNN's Charles Molineaux
CNN's Charles Molineaux  

SHOW LOW, Arizona (CNN) -- Two wildfires raging in Arizona have merged into a single blaze of about 300,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

While the fire is threatening to burn into Show Low, the evacuated town has been spared so far.

CNN Correspondent Charles Molineaux reported the latest as the sun broke through the smoke Monday morning.

MOLINEAUX: This menacing orange glow which appeared on the western horizon overnight has given way to something of a haze. It's a lot closer than it was, but the expectation is that things are going to be a bit calmer now.

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The Forest Service had been predicting this entire area would be overrun by fire [Monday]. But there have been more favorable conditions for them. Winds have died down somewhat. Temperatures have dropped as well. But fire crews have been out on the fire lines working hard to reinforce their fire breaks between the fire and here.

Overnight, they kept up work on a strategic canyon. This is the Cottonwood Canyon, just west of Show Low. They've had the hoses, the shovels, the bulldozers as well as drops of fire retardant.

And they are hoping that if they get this latest fire break built, they can pretty much severely impede the fire's ability to launch another hard, eastern assault on the town of Show Low, something they've been fearing for a long time as the wind started blowing out a lot more from the west.

But these more favorable conditions have given them yet another opportunity to reinforce their defensive lines. And at the moment, we're looking at a pretty quiet situation. We're waiting for the winds to pick up and the fire to kick up again.

CNN: We've been talking a lot about houses, but we should point out that Show Low is in Navajo County, Arizona, and there are as many as 1,000 archaeological sites, and pueblos and other historical places that are very important to Native Americans that are threatened by this fire as well. Have you heard anything about that?

MOLINEAUX: That is a major concern. The older sites, of course, have probably seen a number of fires in the past. A much greater concern for the Indians in this area is actually a very large timber mill which is not in the fire zone but has basically been completely wiped out by it because the timber reserves have been pretty much eliminated. And 400 jobs at least have already been directly lost as a result of this fire.

That is one thing that we know already. This would be in the Apache reservation just south of here. A lot of concern about that already as well as concerns about forestry, hiking and elk hunting. So the impact on these reservations has already been very severe.

CNN: And anybody familiar with the Native American situation in the Southwest knows that that already is a very difficult economic situation.

MOLINEAUX: Yes, these are very poor counties here.




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