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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Wildfires prompt evacuations in Arizona and California

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. ( Associated Press) — The northern Arizona town of Flagstaff is synonymous with mountains, surrounded by pine trees, meadows and trails that offer relief from the desert heat.

But now parts are burning again this year, in a fire fueled by winds that grounded aerial assets on Monday. Firefighters were expecting more moderate winds on Tuesday and throughout the rest of the week, which could help them control flames that have not yet decorated houses but have entered a wilderness area and are advancing towards a volcano crater.

City residents looked toward the mountains, where smoke billowed into the air, some fearful, others nervous, most hoping that the expected humidity later in the week would bring some relief.

“We’re certainly dry,” Flagstaff resident Colin Challiflour said Monday afternoon. “The forests are dry. Is bad luck. It’s not nice to watch.”

Some 2,500 houses have been evacuated due to two wildfires burning on the outskirts of the city. A home and ancillary building have burned, according to Coconino County police. Hundreds more people in California and New Mexico have been forced to leave their homes threatened by fire.

In northern Arizona, Coconino County declared an emergency due to the fire. On Monday it was estimated to cover about 20 square kilometers (8 square miles), although firefighters had not been able to check it from the air.

Two other smaller fires to the northeast of the main fire merged and prompted evacuations in a more remote area on Monday.

Earlier this spring, fires raged across several states in the western United States, where climate change and a prolonged drought are increasing the frequency and intensity of forest and grass fires. A fire outside of Flagstaff destroyed more than two dozen homes in the spring. Most of the neighbors who evacuated then were again out of their houses due to the new fire.

The number of square miles burned this year is more than double the national average of the last 10 years, and states like New Mexico have already broken records with devastating fires that destroyed hundreds of homes, in addition to causing environmental damage that is expected to affect the water supply.

Across the United States, more than 6,200 wildland firefighters were battling nearly three dozen wildfires that have burned some 1 million acres (4,408 square kilometers), according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Even in Alaska, forecasters have warned that several fires in the southern part of the state have grown exceptionally in the last week, which is unusual. Southwest Alaska typically experiences shorter periods of high fire risk because occasional rain can provide some relief, but the region has been hot and windy since mid-May, drying out vegetation.

Favorable weather helped slow the spread of a tundra fire Monday just 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from an Alaska Native village.

In California, evacuation orders have been ordered for some 300 isolated homes near a fire that started over the weekend northeast of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains. By Monday it had consumed about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) of pine forests and was 27% contained, according to fire spokeswoman Dana Dierkes.

A second fire in Tehama County, Northern California, has destroyed 10 buildings, damaged four others and threatened about 160 structures, according to fire officials. On Monday night it was 20% contained.

Further south, in San Diego County, five people were rescued after starting a small fire near the US-Mexico border, according to authorities.

In Northern California, a 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch of State Highway 70 was closed indefinitely Monday after mud, rocks and dead trees engulfed lanes in flash flooding along a burned area in California. a fire.


Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska; Jim Anderson in Denver; and Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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