HEBER-OVERGAARD, Ariz. -- Fire took dead aim at the Pinecrest Lake RV Resort and ran right over it. Little was left behind.
The neighborhood suffered the most damage in one of the West's worst wildfires ever, one that has charred nearly 410,000 acres, destroyed at least 423 homes and forced 30,000 people to flee.
So far, firefighters have contained just 5 percent of the wildfire, and they worried that a second day of thunderstorms Thursday could bring wind and lightning but little rain.
"We have to emphasize that Mother Nature is still in control," fire spokesman Jim Paxon said.
Show Low, a town of 7,700 that is the economic hub of a string of mountain communities in eastern Arizona, has received most of the attention since the first wildfire erupted on June 18. It remains evacuated, and flames are less than a half-mile away.
But the homes in Heber-Overgaard, just to the northwest along Highway 260, have suffered the brunt of the damage. Thousands of residents have scattered to shelters in towns throughout the region. A plume of smoke towered 40,000 feet over the area, Paxon said Thursday.
Fire hopscotched through Overgaard over the weekend but went right at the Pinecrest Lake RV Resort. In that one neighborhood alone, flames destroyed an estimated 168 of the 200 homes.
On Wednesday, street signs led the way to block after block of destruction. Stands of blackened pines stood like matchsticks. Home after home lay flattened as if a tornado had blown through.
Some Pinecrest homes survived. Just to the east of a small lake, about a half-dozen homes were unscathed.
"I'm really saddened for the people who have lost their places, but 80 to 90 percent of our community is still standing," said Dave Neff, president of the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce.
There was also heavy damage in Overgaard's Bison Ranch resort community, where dozens of log cabin homes burned to their foundations. Nothing could be distinguished inside except the twisted metal of roofs.
Just down the road, a log cabin was completely untouched, its sprinklers watering a perfectly manicured lawn.
Neff peered out a car window as he rode down Arizona 260, the main drag through town. In old town Overgaard, he spotted what had been the senior center -- now reduced to ash.
"Where those two telephone poles are is where the senior center was," he said.
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