Northern Arizona wildfire grows significantly

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- A wildfire burning in rugged terrain in a northern Arizona canyon grew significantly because of fires intentionally set by crews to rob the blaze of its natural forest fuels, officials said Saturday.

Crews have mostly completed burnout operations on the key northern flank of the Slide Fire and are preparing to make similar protection efforts on the fire's western end. The burnout operations conducted Friday night by fire crews contributed to the heavy smoke over Sedona and Flagstaff.

"They are making progress. Having the humidity and cooler temperatures was certainly very helpful. But we are by no means done yet," Coronado National Forest Service information officer Gerry Perry said.

There was a chance of thunderstorms Saturday in the area that could bring much-needed moisture. But if such a storm doesn't produce any rain, its winds could fan the fire.

The size of the human-caused fire had reached 16 square miles by Saturday morning. It had grown nearly 5 square miles since the latest report on its size.

It's burning around Oak Creek Canyon, a scenic recreation area along the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff that would normally be filed with tourists as Memorial Day approaches. Slide Rock State Park, one of the most-visited tourist spots in Arizona, has been closed.

Evacuations remain in place for a 2-mile stretch north of Slide Rock.

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