Emergency declared over Ariz. wildfires

Emergency declared over Ariz. wildfires

06 June 2011

published by www.upi.com       

USA — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Monday signed an emergency declaration to set wheels in motion to help cover the costs of wildfires raging in the state.

A statement posted on the governor’s Web site said the declaration releases $200,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Funds to pay for emergency responses and recovery expenses for damage resulting from the still-untamed blazes.

The release said the money will pay costs not covered by federal fire management assistance funds and recovery efforts after the fires are put out. The declaration authorizes the state adjutant general to mobilize the Arizona National Guard as necessary.

The governor said the State Emergency Operations Center will be activated Tuesday morning to coordinate and direct all state emergency response activities.

New evacuations were ordered overnight in Arizona amid concerns the wildfires, fueled by gusty winds and possible lightning, could advance, fire officials said.

More than 2,000 people fled their homes as firefighters tried to prevent the Wallow fire from gaining more ground, ABC News reported. The fire has consumed 192,000 acres near the Arizona-New Mexico state line.

Because of the threat of high winds, residents in the resort town of Greer and other communities along the eastern side of the White Mountains were put under an evacuation alert, officials said.

“It was horrific — the likes of a fire I’ve never seen from the air before,” Brewer said.

Officials said some residents were using inhalers to breathe through the thick smoke.

The Wallow fire, which began May 29, mushroomed into one of the larger blazes in Arizona history.

Emergency crews set a series of smaller fires Saturday to create a fire line to try to halt the advance of the fire that has burned an estimated 225 square miles and cost $3 million to fight so far.

The National Weather Service said fire conditions could deteriorate Monday as winds as high as 30 mph were expected. Lightning-packed thunderstorms also were predicted.

NWS placed the northern half of the state under a “red flag warning,” meaning conditions are ripe for wildfires.

“The head of the fire is knocking on Alpine’s door,” Brad Pitassi, a spokesman for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, told CNN. “We have spot fires in Alpine. The crews have been able to stop those fires from growing.”

Alpine has been evacuated.

Pitassi called the Wallow fire “significant” with “a lot of growth potential.”

About 2,000 firefighters from across the country are battling the Wallow fire, The Arizona Republic reported.

Judith Dyess, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, told the Republic officials need “a clear notion of where we’re going” if they expect to deal successfully with such a huge and unpredictable fire as the Wallow fire, coordinating efforts of thousands of firefighters.”

“With any big fire, you don’t just jump in front of it and start fighting it. You establish anchor points and work from there,” Dyess said. “The first anchor point was on the southwest side of the fire.”

The initial action is flanking the fire to begin “pinching it down,” she said. “We’re trying to stop the progress of the fire there.”

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