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Arizona Fire Information Officer Holds Briefing

Aired June 29, 2002 - 12:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to Show Low, Arizona where firefighters are updating reporters now on the progress of the fires.

JIM PAXON, FIRE INFORMATION OFFICER: Fire pushed that dozer line pretty hard yesterday afternoon. We did have some spotting across the line. There were six spots. They were all picked up and suppressed. The biggest one was 10 acres. There's two more canyons to burn up to that dozer line to date, and so things are very tense, but I will tell you that firefighters are doing everything they can in preparation. They're on guard and at the ready to take action when mother nature shows her hand.

We'll see how that holds. We're on edge. But if that holds, then we'll keep fire out of forest lakes and from crossing 260. It will be a major victory.

Those folks over there with Ken Martin (ph) and his team are where we were about five days ago on this fire, and mother nature had all the cards and we were just waiting and reacting. So we'll watch that with baited breath today. Understand it's tense, but understand that we're doing everything that we can do.

But today is an auspicious day. We're returning folks to their homes. That means a lot to the local officials and a lot to firefighters, but even more to the home owners who are going to be able to come home and sleep in their own bed. Our hearts really go out to those who have lost houses and had damage to their properties. Fate is fickle. You'll look at some of the things that are up there and wonder why this one and not that one. And we can't answer those questions.

The ultimate effort was made to save houses, and we saved many more than we lost, and that's a key consideration. Every time we lose a house, that's a defeat. Every time we save a house, that's a victory.

Now, there's some things before we go through a litany of speakers that I want to convey to folks. Those that are returning home, especially to areas that have been impacted by fire are really going to see a change and a stark contrast. We need to help them get ready for that. Many of them have already seen it, especially those who have lost homes, but what was green in many cases is going to be black and look like a moonscape. There will still be kindlers of smoke and from the interior of the fire there will be actual columns with islands of 100 to 500 acres still waiting to consume when nature takes advantage at moments.

As you come back in, emergency services don't need the networks flooded with calls of oh, my goodness, there's a fire in my backyard. We know that. And we've got guards and patrols and firefighters and law enforcement scattered all throughout this fire and we know exactly where the hot spots are, and we're responding to these hot spots. So understand that this big change will be shocking to say the least. And understand that we'll be there to help you understand it.

Red Cross is moving resources. They will establish service centers. There is going to be some assistance to those folks. There will be a follow-up to this news conference on that. FEMA is already in place. There is assistance for those who have lost homes, and that will also be in a follow-up.

Remember, too, that the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is closed to entry. All forest roads and trails are closed to use. You're going to have to wait until it rains before we can reopen the forest.

All of the areas that have been not impacted by fire, which amount to MacNeary (ph), Honda (ph), Honda Homesites (ph), Pinetop Lakeside and Show Low, people will be able to come back in this morning, and it's business as usual. Those areas that have been impacted by fire are all open, except Timberland Acres. There's still hazmat and utility issues and some soft trees that crews are working on to get the fire hazards out. We just can't open that, and we hope we will be able to in the next day or two.

So Linden (ph), Pinedale and Clay Springs and all the subdivisions west and south of west Show Low are open, except Timberland Acres. Now, there will be a roadblock just west of Clay Springs and all of those areas west of Clay Springs are not open. They're closed. And you're going to hear that a couple of times. Understand, we want to hold questions until the end of this news conference. Once we break up, the various local officials and state officials will be here. You can visit with them one-on-one.

WHITFIELD: All right. You have been listening to fire information officer Jim Paxon out in Show Low, Arizona saying that evacuees, hundreds of people who were evacuated from the fiery area there are now being returned to their homes, and he explained what kind of measures are being taken for them in their transitional stage.

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