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Pre-evacuation orders lifted for eastern Arizona towns near Cedar Fire

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PHOENIX — Pre-evacuation orders for several eastern Arizona towns have been lifted after firefighters were able to get the nearby Cedar Fire mostly under control this week, officials said Friday.

However, US 60 through the area will remain closed.

The fire, which has burned more than 67 square miles, was 60 percent contained Sunday, a large jump over previous containment numbers.

The jump in containment was credited to more fire lines being deemed secure.

Wet weather was also moving into the area

As of Sunday, the fire had burned 45,977 acres and is being fought by 774 fire personnel.

“They’re really working their hearts out, and I think we’ve turned a corner,” fire information spokeswoman Rita Baysinger said.

Officials said they heard two drones near the southern area of the fire on Thursday. Flying a drone in the area is not only illegal, but forces a precautionary grounding of all firefighting aircraft in the area.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s office announced Tuesday that it was declaring a state of emergency in Navajo County.

“In light of the size and scope of the fire, coupled with additional risks posed by dry weather conditions, I have declared a state of emergency to direct additional state resources and assets to support local response and recovery efforts,” Ducey said in a release.

The declaration frees up money for local response and recovery efforts in Navajo County and ensures state agencies are ready if need be.

The fire is about 10 miles from Show Low and only three miles from the tiny White Mountain Apache tribal town of Cedar Creek.

US 60 reopened between Show Low and State Route 73 on the White Mountain Apache Reservation on Saturday, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

“Ensuring the safety of these communities – and all of the women and men working around the clock to fight this fire – remains our top priority,” Ducey said. “Arizona will bring to bear any and all support necessary to make that happen.”

Last weekend the fire roared past containment lines, taking out around 14,000 acres.

A report at the U.S. Forest Service’s online Incident Information System noted that “the current perimeter of the fire extends directly south and east of Highway 60 across the Gila County/Navajo County boundary.”

The fire ignited June 15. The town of Forestdale was evacuated shortly after the fire had burned 9,600 acres.

The fire has thrown in some unexpected twists, including the “gustnado” that developed Monday in nearby Snowflake.

The areas are about three hours east of metro Phoenix.

Power has been cut to Cibecue, Cedar Creek and Carrizo for the protection of the fire crews.

The cause of the fire remained unknown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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