Massive Ariz. wildfire expected to enter NMA massive wildfire in eastern Arizona that has claimed more than 30 homes and forced nearly than 10,000 people to evacuate is likely to spread into New Mexico soon, threatening more towns and possibly endangering two major power lines that bring electricity from Arizona to West Texas.
By: BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz. (AP) — A massive wildfire in eastern Arizona that has claimed more than 30 homes and forced nearly than 10,000 people to evacuate is likely to spread into New Mexico soon, threatening more towns and possibly endangering two major power lines that bring electricity from Arizona to West Texas.
The fire has now burned 639 square miles of forest, an increase of 114 square miles from a day earlier, officials said Friday.
Lighters winds Thursday and Friday have helped the 3,000 firefighters on the lines make progress, but critical fire conditions remain, said Jim Whittington, a spokesman for the teams battling the fire. High winds are expected to return with a vengeance on Saturday.
“We have until then to get as much work as we can done and get to the point where we can sit back and watch the winds come and do what we have to then,” Whittington said.
Fire crews plan to try to strengthen what lines they've been able to establish and continue burning out forested areas in front of the main fire to try to stop its advance. It was officially just 5 percent contained Friday, but the actual numbers are likely higher, Whittington said.
The advances came on the north side of the fire, near two large towns at the edge of the forest that have been evacuated.
The two Arizona-Texas power lines are still in the path of the fire, although Whittington said he was less concerned about them Friday. El Paso Electric has warned its 372,000 customers that they may face rolling blackouts if the lines are cut.
The blaze in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest has destroyed 31 homes or cabins, including 22 in the picturesque mountain community of Greer, Whittington said. Two dozen outbuildings and a truck were also lost and five homes damaged in Greer when the fire moved in Wednesday night.