Arizona RV Park Housed/Fed Wildfire Firefighters
Lisa Carpenter defied evacuation orders when a massive wildfire in eastern Arizona crept closer to the RV park she manages, but at one point she had second thoughts about her decision.
"It was so bad you couldn't see a football field ahead of you," Carpenter, 47, told Reuters on Monday (June 13).
"Embers were flying and ash was everywhere. There was about an hour there where I really questioned whether it was the right decision to stay," she said.
That was last Wednesday, but Carpenter said she felt fortunate to have about 20 firefighters staying at the Casa Malpais RV Park she manages with her husband in Springerville, Ariz.
Carpenter ended up housing, feeding and offering showers to the firefighters, and that seems to have been a boon for both the preservation of the RV park and her guests.
"We had a firefighter who said, 'this is the first time I've gained weight'" battling a blaze, Carpenter said.
Carpenter is one of thousands of Arizona residents affected by the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona who have begun to return to their normal lives, now that about 4,300 firefighters have largely halted the advance of the blaze.
The fire has destroyed 31 homes and burned more than 452,000 acres since it broke out on May 29.
A day after evacuation orders were lifted for neighboring towns Springerville and Eagar, residents on Monday unpacked cars, cleaned up front yards and talked with neighbors.
Those who returned home could still see plumes of dark smoke billowing from the surrounding mountains, as water-dropping helicopters flew overhead.
Last week, the Wallow Fire had forced as many as 11,000 residents to flee their homes. But early this week that was reduced to about 1,900 who were still waiting to return to evacuated homes in a handful of Arizona towns in the White Mountains area, including Alpine, Greer and Nutrioso.