/ Modified may 27, 2012 8:37 a.m.

Cool Weather Slows AZ Wildfires

Crown King residents return home; fire stays at 16,240 acres

Temperatures that dropped 20 degrees below normal throughout Arizona have helped slow two large wildfires in northern and eastern Arizona mountains, federal fire officials say.

The Gladiator Fire, at 16,240 acres in the Prescott National Forest 40 miles northwest of Phoenix, was considered stable at 45 percent containment late Saturday. The fire started May 13 when a house in Crown King caught fire and it spread to dry vegetation on nearby state forest land.

Crown King and three other small communities were evacuated. Residents were being allowed to return home over the weekend, and officials said the public would be allowed back into the area soon.

The Sunflower Fire in the Tonto National Forest near Payson also was stable at 43 percent containment. It had burned an estimated 17,618 acres mostly in unoccupied wilderness areas, according to the Incident Information System website.

Despite cooler temperatures, much of Arizona remained under fire restrictions, including all state parks and recreational lands, several national forests and other federal lands.

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