Arizona forest fire triggers new round of orders for evacuation

Arizona forest fire triggers new round of orders for evacuation

06 June 2011

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USA — Authorities ordered more eastern Arizona residents to evacuate their homes Sunday as a 225-square-mile blaze that has grown into the third-largest in state history crept toward more buildings.

The Apache County sheriff’s office told an unknown number of people east of the town of Alpine along U.S. 180 to get out as the forest fire crept closer.

Alpine itself has been under mandatory evacuation orders since Thursday night, along with the community of Nutrioso and several lodges and camps in the state’s scenic high country.

Subdivisions close to the New Mexico border that were ordered emptied Sunday included Escudilla Mountain Estates, Bonita, Dog Patch, and the H-V Ranch east of U.S. 180, fire information officer Eric Neitzel said.

Crews have no containment of the fire, which has been burning for a week.

Winds died down overnight, allowing crews to burn 30 miles of containment lines to create a buffer from the most violent wind-driven fires.

“It gives a much greater chance of it having diminished fire behavior as it approaches the lines,” fire information officer Peter Frenzen told The Associated Press. Spokesman Brad Pitassi said 1,300 firefighters were at the blaze, including some “from Oregon all the way to New York.”

The fire is the state’s third-largest, behind a 2002 blaze that blackened more than 732 square miles and one in 2005 that burned about 387 square miles in the Phoenix suburb of Cave Creek.

The state also was contending with another major wildfire, its fifth-largest, in far southeastern Arizona that threatened a church camp and two communities.

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