Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crews battle to contain raging Arizona wildfires

Tim Gaynor in Reuters: Crews with hand tools battled to contain wind-whipped Arizona wildfires on Wednesday that have raced across more than 30 square miles of parched ponderosa forest, brush and grassland, consuming several buildings and threatening a small town.

The Sunflower Fire, the largest of at least four blazes in central and eastern Arizona, has burned nearly 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) in the Tonto National Forest, about 40 miles north of Phoenix, fire officials said.

Days after the weekend eruption of the blaze, fire crews had managed to carve containment lines around just 10 percent of its perimeter.

This week's conflagrations marked the first major wildfires of the year in Arizona, after a record 2011 fire season in which nearly 2,000 recorded blazes swallowed more than 1,500 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

...About 350 residents of Crown King in central Arizona remained under evacuation orders after another blaze, the fast-moving Gladiator Fire, burned nearly 9 square miles (22 square kilometers) of ponderosa pine, brush and chaparral in the Prescott National Forest and destroyed several buildings.

Fanned by strong winds and dry weather, the Gladiator Fire also threatened homes in the Horsethief Basin area, as well as U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, lookout towers and power lines in the rugged, mountainous terrain, officials said. It was 5 percent contained...

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