Successful backburns around most of the Cave Creek Complex fire have crippled the hungry blaze, which no longer threatens Pine and Strawberry.
The 243,800-acre fire was 75 percent contained Sunday on the south zone and 30 percent contained on the north zone after a two-day backburn operation that starved the south toward New River Road and the north and northwest sides, officials said.
"It turned out even better than we expected," said fire spokeswoman Tammy Pike. "I’m sure flames will continue to pop up in the next few weeks, but it’s definitely lying down."
While firefighters in the south zone start working to extinguish interior hot spots, those along the northeast edge near the Pine Mountain Wilderness are preparing for more backburns. Wind will partially determine when the backburns take place.
"People will continue to see smoke while the burnouts are taking place," said fire spokeswoman Robin Carter, "but it won’t be the huge smoke plumes that they see with a running wildfire."
The successful backburns can be attributed to several variables falling into place, Carter said. The shape of the land, the fuel type and wind speed all play a part in fire officials’ decision to use backburns.
The Cave Creek Complex fire is burning in Tonto National Forest northeast of Carefree. It has burned into the New River Mountains and the Pine Mountain Wilderness.
Crews are standing by for any new fires that could start from illegal fireworks activity, Carter said.
"The people in this community are all very knowledgeable and realize the high firedanger risk, so we’re hoping we don’t see any new fires," Carter said.