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Eastern Arizona ready for tourism boom after Wallow Fire

PHOENIX -- It was over Memorial Day weekend two years ago that the Wallow Fire was ignited by a pair of careless campers.

It became the largest wildfire in state history, burning more than 500,000 acres. The fire threatened several communities and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

Two years later, and eastern Arizona is expecting huge holiday weekend crowds.

Becky Christiansen heads up the Springerville/Eagar Chamber of Commerce and has watched a rebirth of tourism in towns like Alpine, Eagar and Greer, among other communities.

"The fishing and hunting is very much alive," she said. "The weather is cool and we have a lot of events going on this weekend."

Christiansen didn't downplay the significance of the Wallow Fire but points out that it burned in patches and only 10 percent of the area was severely burned.

"They're places where you can't see any burned areas. This forest is millions of acres and it is still beautiful."

Christiansen expects packed hotels and restaurants all weekend long as people look to escape the Valley heat in the high country.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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