/ Modified may 25, 2012 10:06 a.m.

UPDATE: Crown King Fire Evacuation Called Off

Residents, business owners can return Friday as fire's danger subsides

Residents of Crown King and two smaller communities evacuated because of a wildfire in Yavapai County were told Friday that they can return home.

Residents and business owners must obtain re-entry passes from the Sheriff's Department substation in Mayer, officials said. Residents of Turkey Creek and Pine Flats also may return home, they said.

The evacuations began on May 13, the day the Gladiator Fire started when it spread from a burning house in Crown King to the surrounding dry forest and brush lands. In the nearly two weeks since then, the fire burned four houses and consumed vegetation on 16,240 acres.

Hundreds of firefighters were preparing to pack their gear and depart the scene in Prescott National Forest about 40 miles north of Phoenix.

The fire was 35 percent contained on Friday. It is Arizona's largest fire so far this year.

"Firefighters monitored and strengthened containment and contingency lines where needed," the federal Incident Information System website reported. "Mopup work completed today (Friday) included putting out smoldering material 200 feet from containment lines, cutting down snags and digging trenches to prevent rolling debris."

Officials reported that they released 156 firefighters on Thursday and were going to release more in the coming days "due to decreased fire activity."

Conditions with four other wildfires in the state were reported stable Friday. The Sunflower Fire on the Tonto National Forest near Payson had burned 16,175 acres. The other three were much smaller.

Cooler weekend weather and the possibility of some rain, especially in mountainous areas, is not expected to quell fire conditions around the state. Fire restrictions are in effect in several national forests and on all state-owned recreational land.

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