LOS ANGELES (AFP) – A huge fire that has destroyed hundreds of miles of forest land in Arizona now is threatening to cross into neighboring New Mexico, authorities said.
Thousands of firefighters have been battling the blaze, dubbed the Wallow Fire, the second biggest in the history of Arizona.
The inferno, fueled by high winds and low humidity, is raging out of control and has consumed nearly 600 square miles (157,000 hectares) of land, prompting some 3,000 people to evacuate.
The US National Weather Service on Wednesday issued its most severe “red flag” warning for the area, while thousands of firefighters were hoping to slow the inferno’s advance by creating a protective “fire line” of already burned-out vegetation in its path.
Firefighters said the man-made blaze, which began Saturday, is burning largely out of control and hundreds of dwellings remain at risk of being consumed in the fire.
Late Tuesday, authorities also ordered the evacuations of the town of Eagar, population of some 4,500 people.
Another round of evacuations affected the mountain community of Wallow, Arizona, some 300 kilometers northeast of Phoenix near the New Mexico border.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Monday signed a declaration of emergency in response to the wildfires, releasing $200,000 from an emergency response fund.
A huge smoke cloud from the fire meanwhile was billowing over the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest about 185 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix, near the Arizona-New Mexico border.