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Wildfire threatens popular Arizona tourist area

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 8:40 AM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fire grows to 4,500 acres in one day
  • Slide Rock State Park is popular with tourists in the summer
  • No one has been injured by the fire
  • Several hundred homes, rental cabins, other buildings are threatened

(CNN) -- A fast-growing wildfire had 500 firefighters battling high winds and steep terrain Wednesday as the blaze moved toward homes and resort cabins just north of Slide Rock State Park in Arizona.

The fire, which began Tuesday afternoon and was likely caused by a person, has already grown to 4,500 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

About 3,200 residents in Coconino County were given pre-evacuation notices. About 300 structures were threatened by the blaze, none of which has been contained.

Frank Garrison owns 20 rental cabins in the area.

"It's my home, my property, my livelihood," he told CNN affiliate KTVK. "Everything."

He had packed his pickup and was in a line of cars of people leaving the area Wednesday.

The Butterfly Garden Inn said it was able to get all staff and guests out.

"We are praying for the safety of our beautiful inn and for the brave firefighters working tirelessly to save it," the inn said on its Facebook page. "Please help us pray for a miracle."

Connor Packard stood atop his mother-in-law's roof, spraying water from a garden hose.

"Just spraying down the roof and the yard just in case any embers float down," he told KTVK. "There's already a bunch of ash floating down."

The Slide Fire, as it has been named, is burning an area called Oak Creek Canyon. The hilly terrain and 30 mph wind gusts made it difficult for firefighters.

The area is popular in the summer with tourists looking to escape the heat. Fodor's Travel named it one of the top 10 state parks in the United States.

"There's pretty much one reason and one reason only to visit Slide Rock State Park, seven miles north of Sedona: to slip down the smooth, red-sandstone water slide and be carried over the surface by a cooling creek into the swimming hole below," Fodor's wrote.

The park is a 43-acre historic apple farm, according to the Slide Rock website.

No one has been injured because of the fire, the forest service said. Smoke from the fire was drifting to the northeast and had reached Utah, 150 miles away.

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CNN Shane Deitert, Dave Alsup and Greg Morrison contributed to that story.

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