Winds challenge crews battling US wildfires

PHOENIX — About 1,700 more homes were evacuated on Sunday in southern Arizona as crews battling a wildfire faced extremely high winds that drove flames across containment lines and toward populated areas.

By (AP)

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Published: Mon 20 Jun 2011, 12:22 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:36 PM

The evacuations are several miles (kilometers) south of the city of Sierra Vista where the so-called Monument fire has been burning for days but picked up speed Sunday due winds gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph).

Cochise County sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas said Sunday that over the past few days, the blaze has forced about 10,000 people from 4,300 homes to flee to safer territory.

There have been no serious injuries but 44 homes have been destroyed. Capas says more homes were destroyed Sunday, but officials still don’t have an exact count.

Fire crews were forced to abandon their lines and try to set up in new spots as the fire advanced, fire spokesman Bill Paxton said.

Meanwhile, the massive Wallow fire that has been burning in eastern Arizona for three weeks kept about 200 residents of Luna, New Mexico, under an evacuation order for a second day.

The Wallow fire, which is burning up much of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, is the largest of several wildfires burning in spots across the southwestern United States.

With summer rains still weeks away, forecasters said fire crews in much of Arizona and New Mexico would likely have little relief from the hot, windy weather that has dogged them for days.

All of the Arizona wildfires are believed to be human caused. Investigators believe a campfire was the most likely cause of the Wallow fire.

Authorities in southern New Mexico were also looking for “persons of interest” as they searched for the cause of a fire that burned several homes in the wooded community of Ruidoso.

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