Willow Fire 40 Percent Contained; Highway 87 Remains Closed

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ADOT officials hope to make a decision about opening Highway 87 on Friday. It remains closed as fire crews complete burnout operations to contain the Willow Fire.

The burnout along the southern edge of the Willow Fire did "extremely well" Thursday as firefighters reached 40 percent containment of the blaze, according to Operations Section Chief Buck Wickham.

Fire crews performed burnout operations along Highway 87 from Highway 188 south to an area just north of Sunflower, Wickham said. The crews will burn another mile and a half burn tonight.

"With today's activity and the burnout we're going to do tonight, we think we might actually stop (the spread of) the fire," he said.

Wickham said the crews are growing haggard, but that days like Thursday are major "kudos" for them.

"Today was an intense deal. It was a major burnout," he said. "It was kind of what firefighters live for ... It was a fun day for firefighters."

Jim Clawson, law enforcement liaison, said Highway 87 would remain closed until at least Friday. Currently there is a danger to motorists on the road because of large rocks falling on the highway.

"We don't want any rocks rolling through somebody's windshield while they're going back down to Phoenix," he said.

Clawson said the Arizona Department of Transportation would make a decision about opening the highway on Friday morning.

Lightning on June 24 started the Willow Fire, which has grown to 118,300 acres.

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