SHOW LOW, Ariz. -- In a sign of progress against one of the worst wildfires ever to burn in the West, firefighters took advantage of calmer, cooler weather to slow the blaze as it crept within a half-mile of this mountain town.
The improved weather on Monday allowed fire crews to strengthen and complete two fire lines, then burn the area between them to create a blackened buffer zone to protect Show Low, a town of 7,700 in eastern Arizona.
"We're back to fighting this fire," fire spokesman Jim Paxon said. "It's been beating us up for a week, and we're back to fighting this monster."
The 330,000-acre fire, the largest in the state's history, has destroyed at least 375 homes in the White Mountains. Embers fell as far away as three miles from the fire.
President Bush planned to view the fire from the air on Tuesday, then make a stop on Arizona soil to be briefed on the fire, visit firefighters and meet with evacuees.
Although no more homes were lost, the number confirmed destroyed was revised upward from 329 based on a house-by-house count. Hundreds of firefighters were heading to the scene, with the total force expected to reach 5,000 to 6,000.
"A lot of things happened today and none of them were bad," Paxon said. "This is the first day in five that we didn't lose any structures."
Frustration and impatience was growing among the 30,000 evacuees, many of whom have spent days in shelters without any word about their homes. Navajo County planned to set up a telephone number residents could call to find out whether their homes were still standing.
"I feel so helpless," said Alli Klein, whose family lives in the small town of Heber, which the fire raced through on Saturday. "I wish this emotional roller coaster that I've been experiencing would end soon."
The fire still could make an end run around the fire line, but officials believed that a frontal assault on the town and on another nearby community could be averted.
Paxon emphasized that far more homes had been saved than destroyed. Still, some locals were prepared for the worst.
"There's some stuff left behind that was important to me," evacuee Tad Klein said, "but it's not a big deal. What matters is I have my family, my friends and my faith. The rest I'm not in control of."
The fire has covered 517 square miles, an area bigger than Los Angeles. The worst day was Saturday, when in a single afternoon the fire raced across seven miles of one of the country's largest stands of Ponderosa pine.
The fire has surpassed the May 2000 fire that destroyed more than 220 homes and businesses in Los Alamos, N.M., making it among the most destructive wildfires ever.
Across the country, 2.33 million acres have been burned this year by wildfires, according to the government's National Interagency Fire Center.
In Colorado, crews continued to fight a 66,310-acre blaze that had destroyed 45 homes near Durango. The fire flared Monday, forcing dozens of residents from more than 100 homes. In all, some 1,200 homes have been evacuated.
South of Denver, a 137,000-acre blaze that had destroyed at least 133 homes was reported 69 percent contained.
In Show Low, many homes on the western edge of town were tagged with red flags, a signal that firefighters would not try to save them because of thick underbrush or wood-shingled roofs.
Ted Heming, a retiree who has lived in Heber for six years, did not know what he would do if his home is lost. But he has some idea of where he might go if he had to pull up stakes.
"Somewhere where it rains a lot," he said. "Maybe Seattle."
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