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Woodbury Fire passes Willow to become state’s 5th largest fire

(Photo Credit: James Stamsek)

PHOENIX — The Woodbury Fire burning east of Phoenix grew to more than 120,000 acres Tuesday evening, becoming the fifth-largest fire in Arizona history.

The fire reached 123,263 acres by early Wednesday, surpassing the 119,500-acre Willow Fire from 2004.

Despite the scope of the fire, Tuesday was a positive day for firefighters.

Containment reached 48% Monday and remained there.

“That is looking really good,” Pamela Mathis, spokeswoman for the fire management team, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“The southwestern part of the fire is done, the southeastern part … is looking cold,” she said.

Transmission lines that help power Phoenix, mining operations, homes and ranches were much safer now, Mathis said.

Firefighters have managed to keep the burning from jumping across State Route 188. About 930 personnel remained on the job.

Evacuees who were displaced by the Woodbury Fire received good news late Tuesday morning: They can go home.

Gila County Sheriff J. Adam Shephard made the announcement at 11 a.m.

An email from the sheriff’s department said there were still active areas within the fire perimeter and smoke would be noticeable for weeks.

Woodbury will have to almost double in size to reach the No. 4 spot in the state. The Horseshoe Two Fire from 2011 burned more than 220,000 acres.

The largest wildfire in Arizona history was the 2011 Wallow Fire, which wiped out more than 500,000 acres.

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