PHOENIX -- A mountain highway reopened Wednesday through the area where 19 firefighters died protecting a former gold-rush town, while fire crews stopped the progress of another blaze burning in eastern Arizona.
That lightning-sparked fire south of Kearny ignited Monday and grew to about 518 acres by Wednesday when officials announced most evacuations had been lifted and containment reached 50 percent.
One home burned on the outskirts of Kearny, and firefighters said they had stopped the blaze's progression.
``There will still be some smoke out there, just some interior pockets of fuel burning, but everything looks good,'' said Carrie Dennett of the Arizona State Forestry Division.
Meanwhile, the Yarnell Hill Fire, where 19 members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots died, remained at 90 percent containment after burning about 13 square miles. Estimates of how many structures were destroyed ranged from 114 to 129, but officials couldn't immediately provide an exact figure. Residents were allowed back in this week, and the road through the area reopened to the public on Wednesday. Fire officials were hoping to achieve full containment by Friday.
Jerry Florman, 63, and her husband, Kurt, 72, headed back to see what remained of their Yarnell home on Monday after being evacuated nearly a week earlier.
As the couple turned the corner onto their street, the reality of the devastation hit, Jerry Florman wrote in a column for The Arizona Republic.
``Half of the homes on our street are gone,'' she wrote.
``The fire burned through our acreage thoroughly, leaving behind a moonscape,'' Florman added. ``The house itself is a large pile of rubble ... Very few things will be recovered from this devastation.''
The first funerals for the fallen firefighters began Wednesday, a day after thousands attended a memorial service for the men at a minor league hockey arena in nearby Prescott Valley.
The event also was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Sen. John McCain and other members of the state's congressional delegation.
Officials also announced Wednesday the establishment of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Overlook along Highway 89, at a point where a flagpole erected at the site where the men died can be seen in the distance.
The elite crew died June 30 when a wind-fueled, out-of-control fire overran them as they tried to protect Yarnell from the blaze. Only one member of the team who was serving as a lookout survived.
``In a fierce and terrifying encounter with extreme danger, they stood their ground, like the heroes they were, and fought for their community,'' McCain said on the U.S. Senate floor Wednesday. ``While they did not come home to the people who loved them so much and who will miss them always, I firmly believe we will see them again in the better world that is to come. ``
- Claims from Yarnell Hill Fire reach $662M
- Feds again tell Gov. Brewer no disaster relief
- Companies donate fire gear to Yarnell
- Prescott to take down informal memorial
- Legislators to discuss responder coverage
- Fire payments for crew covered most costs
- Pendant honors fallen fire crew
- Phoenix store donates $100K for families
- Legislators ask Obama to reconsider fire aid
- Planes called just before firefighter deaths
- Couple gets back wedding ring after fire
- Arrests in robbing of evacuated Yarnell home
- DPS paramedic reported firefighter deaths
- Pat McMahon: Back to business
- Yarnell residents return to burned homes
- McCain honors Hotshots inside US Senate (V)
- Brewer asks Obama to declare emergency
- Joe Biden speaks at Yarnell Hill memorial
- Rob Hunter: Remembering the Hotshots
- SR 89 near site of hotshots' deaths reopens
- Friends, family share stories of Hotshots
- Surviving hotshot reads prayer at service
- Yarnell Post Office reopens after wildfire
- McMahon: Misplaced outrage
- Wyo. Hotshots raise over $8K for AZ families
- Displaced Yarnell residents go home
- Fire crews: Answer to why is someone has to
- McMahon: Blackened tears
- Procession brings home fallen AZ firefighters
- Photo of flags on firemen creates controversy
- McCain: Deadly Ariz. wildfire highlights need
- Burns, breathing issues killed 19 firefighters
- Yarnell Fire destroys 129 structures
- Firefighter built, tried to protect crew
- Prescott holds vigil for fallen hotshot crew
- Candlelight vigil held in Phoenix for fallen
- Final Word: Firefighters' deaths rallying state
- Widow of firefighter shares memories (VID)
- Storms with lightning threaten Yarnell Fire
- Time-lapse footage of the Yarnell wildfire
- Hunter: Leaving everything behind
- Emergency shelters last chance for survival
- Fallen Prescott fire crew members ID'd
- Report: Two fallen firefighters from Calif.
- Firefighter: 'Doing best we can' after deaths
- Reporter: No surprise last-ditch effort failed
- Humane Society deployed to Yarnell Fire
- For hotshots, preparing a way of life
- American flag greets fallen Prescott crew
- Fallen fire crew worked front lines
- VIDEO: Hotshot memorial in Prescott
- AZ leaders tweet sympathy over Yarnell Fire
- Surviving crew member was moving truck
- Celebrities react to those affected in Yarnell
- VIDEO: Procession for fallen firefighters
- Obama: 'Heartbroken' over AZ firefighters
- VIDEO: Prescott hotshot memorial
- Firefighter's group statement on fallen crew