Firefighters have delivered on the promise made to Pine and Strawberry residents by the area's fire commander -- that their homes would be saved from the Cave Creek Complex fire.
At a community meeting Wednesday evening, Dan Oltrogge, commander of the Type 1 Incident Management team fighting the north end of the fire, told residents he was "very confident we're going to keep this fire well away from Strawberry and Pine."
Firefighters have gotten a handle on the inferno, the second largest in Arizona history, that forced pre-evacuation alerts for Pine and Strawberry last week.
Containment on the northern front stands at 30 percent, while the southern portion of the fire is 75 percent contained, according to officials with Oltrogge's team. The fire, which was started by lightning June 21, has burned 244,000 acres to date, down from an earlier estimate of 250,000 acres.
The fire continues to burn in steep, rough terrain overgrown with fire fuel. Ongoing high temperatures and low relative humidity challenge the firefighters' efforts.
In the northern zone, firefighters are conducting burnouts on a ridge in the Pine Mountain Wilderness Area. The fire has been all but snuffed out in the southern zone, where 11 homes were destroyed.
On the west side of the fire, firefighters burned thousands of acres of desert from just south of Black Canyon City toward Table Mesa to the south. Although officials warned motorists to expect intermittent closures of Interstate 17, the main highway remained open through the weekend.
A total of 1,420 personnel are currently fighting the fire at a cost to date of more than $12 million.
The Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Festival was held as planned over the weekend, although crowds were somewhat smaller than previous Independence Day weekends, according to some vendors.
Meanwhile, a new fire called the Line Fire is burning about 10 miles west of Heber in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. It stands at 120 acres, but fire officials have a ring around it and don't expect it to cause problems for the residents of Heber and Overgaard.
For more information on the Cave Creek Complex Fire and other fires burning on the Tonto National Forest, check the Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
You can also log on to the official Cave Creek Complex Fire website at: fireteam-sw.com/whitney/cavecreek.
For information on forest closures, look on the web at http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire under "Restrictions.
For current road conditions on I-17 please call ADOT at 1-888-411-7623, or visit their website at www.az511.com.