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Arizona's Goodwin Fire Considered Top U.S. Priority

Goodwin Fire near Mayer
(Photo courtesy of Christina Montiel via inciweb.nwcg.gov)
A plane drops fire retardant over the Goodwin Fire near Mayer.

Firefighters made progress on the Goodwin Fire burning south of Prescott. The fire is now 43 percent contained, fire officials said Thursday.

The fire is considered the nation’s No. 1 priority with 900 firefighters working the blaze.

In addition to thousands of residents, 1,400 children have been evacuated from summer camps near the fire.

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Nasher has coordinated that effort.

"Tuesday I watched a very dangerous fire come down that mountain. I watched it heading straight for Mayer. It was 50-60 foot flames heading straight for that town," said Nasher. "The firefighters and the air support managed to save that community."

Many residents turned out for a community meeting Thursday night.

Pat Smillie was told she and her horses get to go home. More than 200 animals have been displaced by the fire.

"This is not my first rodeo. I’ve lived in Arizona for 55 years. This is our fourth time but this has been the worst when I’ve had to evacuate my animals," said Smilie. "It’s really been stressful for them and me."

Fire officials say they’re optimistic but have a lot of work ahead of them to contain the north boundary of the fire. At least five homes have been destroyed.

Mayer residents have been allowed to return home.

When Kathy Crouch heard about the evacuation, she had one big fear. "That we were going to lose our house," Crouch said.

And because she was already camping with friends, she couldn’t get back to save any belongings.

"But, everything turned out," she said.

That goes for everyone in Mayer, where authorities say no homes were damaged.

"I don’t know. We didn’t lose nothing. We didn’t lose any faith. I’ll tell you that," said Brian Gourlie. He was camping with Crouch and her husband.

Gourlie and his wife were most afraid for their cat, Henry, who’d been left behind. As soon as they got home, Gourlie said Henry came running up to them, meowing.

"It’s awesome. And I thank God for all the firemen," Gourlie said. "But I don’t cry."

Hundreds of people remain evacuated, and authorities say some structures have been damaged by the Goodwin Fire. But there’s no word yet on how many or where they are.

A section of State Highway 69 remains closed but Prescott still plans to have its rodeo this weekend. Officials plan to reopen the highway Friday.

The fire has burned more than 24,000 acres since June 24.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.