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Calmer winds help out Arizona firefighters

Melted by the fire: A street sign and stop sign on Mount Lemmon.
Melted by the fire: A street sign and stop sign on Mount Lemmon.

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The large wildfire burning in Arizona is called Aspen. First responders to a wildfire can name it whatever they want. There are no rules, but firefighters usually name a fire after a meadow, creek, city or type of plant they see.

Source: National Interagency Fire Center

(CNN) -- Benefiting from calmer winds, firefighters made progress Wednesday against a wildfire northeast of Tucson, Arizona, that has charred more than 30,000 acres since it began last week and has destroyed more than 300 homes and businesses.

Thursday's forecast calls for more of the same with winds at 10 mph to 20 mph, instead of the 40 mph to 50 mph gusts seen only a few days earlier.

"We had reduced winds," said Art Morrison, a spokesman for the team fighting the fire. "We didn't have a red flag warning for the first time since the fire started."

Wednesday's lighter winds allowed firefighters to establish more firebreaks around the blaze and slow its pace.

"Conditions moderated substantially and it helped a lot," Morrison said, "so, all in all, it was a good day."

The fire, which had consumed at least 30,200 acres as of late Wednesday, is now about 35 percent contained, Morrison said. About 1,200 fire personnel are fighting the blaze.

Firefighters were able to build a containment line around the fire Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, said Carrie Templin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. No new structures have burned, and firefighters were confident the blaze would not threaten the town of Oracle, north of the fire.

The fire on Mount Lemmon, 25 miles northeast of Tucson, has burned more than 300 homes and businesses -- many of them in the vacation community of Summerhaven and nearby Loma Linda. High winds, steep, rocky terrain and dense trees have made firefighting difficult.

The fire is known as the Aspen fire, named after Mount Lemmon's Aspen Trail.

Firefighters have been able to limit its spread by using aerial tankers and "burnouts," in which they use helicopters to set fires to burn off fuel ahead of the advancing blaze.

Officials said the firefighting effort has cost $5.6 million so far.

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