USA — SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz. — For the first time in more than a week, crews made some headway in the fight against a major wildfire in Arizona’s eastern mountains that destroyed dozens of buildings and kept thousands of evacuees away from their homes. But the blaze is still inching towards New Mexico and Governor Susana Martiez is scheduled to tour the small community of Reserve, just off the Arizona border.
ABC-7 confirmed the New Mexico National Guard has been activated to help battle the massive wildfires impacting the state. Lt Colonel Jameson Herrera said 10 to 15 members from Las Cruces have been sent to Reserve. He said They will be there to support the ongoing operation and assist in any way they can the firefighting efforts.
Thursday was the first day that firefighters had favorable weather conditions and mild winds also were forecast Friday, before the return of gustier breezes Saturday.
“(Friday) is a window to get stuff done so we’re going to be hitting it pretty hard today,” fire information officer Suzanne Flory said.
Officials said the 603-square-mile blaze was 5 percent contained, after helicopters and a large air tanker dropped fire retardant and ground crews lit blazes to burn up combustible materials nearby. They said among the buildings destroyed so far were 22 homes in the resort community of Greer, and five others were damaged.
Fire information officer Jim Whittington said unfortunately, losing homes to wildfires has become too common.
“If you’ve been with those folks when they go back in, it doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, if they live in a mansion or if they live in a very small house, the pain on people’s faces is exactly the same,” he said late Thursday. “Our hearts go out to those folks.”
Authorities suspect the 386,000-acre fire was sparked by a campfire. It is the second-largest wildfire in Arizona history.
About 2,700 mountain community residents and 7,000 in Eagar and Springerville on the edge of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest have fled the flames.
Crews remained in the Greer area, where the fire was active, and built containment lines across the border in western New Mexico. The flames had yet to reach that state, but residents of the town of Luna were preparing to evacuate.