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Firefighters winning battle in N.M., Arizona

PHOENIX — Fire crews are making major strides in corralling three major wildfires that have been burning in Arizona for weeks, and they expect to have one of the fires contained by Wednesday evening.

The 348-square-mile fire that will be the first contained has burned through almost an entire forest atop southeastern Arizona's Chiricahua mountains. The forest supports a huge diversity of plants and animals and is a world-renowned bird watching area.

The fire was tamed because it had burned across the whole mountain range, said Mary Christensen, a spokeswoman for the team that has battled the huge blaze since it broke out May 8. The Chiricahua is one of the state's "sky island" mountain ranges, which rise from the surrounding desert and grasslands and aren't connected to other ranges.

The thousands of firefighters battling the state's other two major fires also were making progress, with containment of state's largest-ever fire now at 58 percent.

About 10,000 people were evacuated at one time in the battle against the largest fire, which began May 29 and has burned 828 square miles in eastern Arizona.

Meanwhile, a fire in the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona has been burning since June 12. It has consumed 42 square miles and 57 homes on the outskirts of Sierra Vista, Ariz., about 15 miles north of the Mexican border. The fire is 59 percent contained.

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