Containment of southern Arizona wildfire at 20 percent

For the first time in days, officials announced an increase in containment of a large wildfire burning in southern Arizona.

Hundreds of residences, primarily in rural areas west of Benson and south of Interstate 10 and Mescal remain under pre-evacuation orders, said Carol Capas, a Cochise County sheriff's spokeswoman.

Those included 11 nuns ordered from their abbey on the Santa Ritas' western foothills Monday but they were allowed to return Tuesday after the fire changed direction.

Officials had said before the new estimate was released Wednesday afternoon that they expected aerial mapping would provide a better calculation of the fire's size. The Pima County Office of Emergency Management had lifted evacuations in Singing Valley and around Greaterville.

Smoke rising on the Green Valley side of the mountain today was coming from precautionary back burns, Green Valley Fire Chief Chuck Wunder said. Officials say the changeovers are due to the fire's complexity and the the higher-level teams' capabilities and experience. Closures are still in place on the Arizona Scenic Trail and Highway 83 north of Sonoita.

The nuns all stayed at a bed-and-breakfast.

"On Tuesday at 6: p.m., Jeff Andrews' Type II Incident Management Team assumed command of the Sawmill Fire".

A multi-agency force of more than 200, aided by planes and helicopters dropping water and fire retardant, is fighting the blaze with a "full-suppression strategy", said Schewel.

The evacuation centers are located at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds (3142 Highway 83, Sonoita) and the Southeastern Regional Park Shooting Range (11296 S. Harrison Road, Tucson).

His Southeast Arizona incident management team is comprised of state, federal and local entities.

Twelve people were evacuated from the Santa Rita Ranch after Green Valley Fire District firefighters arrived and began aggressively taking measures to protect structures, said L.T. Pratt, the district's public information officer. Almost 90 other homes have been voluntarily evacuated, KGUN-TV reported.

These conditions created the flawless combination for a fire, a Green Valley Fire Department spokesperson told KGUN-TV, and all it needed was a small spark. Later, the fire moved into the "heavy timber and pretty treacherous terrain" of Madera Canyon, a part of the Coronado National Forest in the Santa Ritas.

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