A wildfire raging through Arizona, branded “Wallow Fire”, appears to have become the second largest wildfire in the state’s history as it continues to rage over 11 days after it began.
Authorities believe the blaze was started by careless campers who left their campfire unattended.
So far the so-called Wallow Fire has destroyed around 389,000 acres. The largest wildfire on record for Arizona was the Rodeo-Chediski fire in eastern Arizona which destroyed 469,000 acres in 2002 before it was extinguished.
Thus far, the fire engulfed the popular mountain retreat of Greer, which had been evacuated days before, forcing thousands of people in nearby towns to flee.
In addition, around 8,000 residents in the towns of Springerville and Eager have been forced to evacuate the White Mountains region. More are on standby to evacuate if necessary.
One resident awaiting possible evacuation is 68-year-old Wayne Lutz who has been working hard to clear brush and dampen his property to limit potential fire damage. “I’m trying to protect my belongings as best I can. If push comes to shove, I can be out of here in 10 minutes. The house is insured. My life is not.”
Current weather is fueling the fire, as Winds continue to fan the fire through tinder-dry ponderosa pines igniting aditional spot fires in other areas. Fire information officer Brenyn Lohmoelder explains: “This fire is very large and very intense, and we’re still just trying to get a handle on it.”
Fire crews in the region have been setting off backfires in an attempt to draw the flames away from threatened homes, and bulldozers have cut a 10-mile-long buffer zone south of Eager between the leading edge of the blaze.
Arizona is not the only state effected. Smoke from the fire has drifted across several states as far east as Iowa and flames threaten to cross the state border into New Mexico where state officials are readying themselves for the blaze.
The small New Mexican town of Luna, remains on alert. The fire is said to be around a mile from the border.
Thus far, no injuries have been reported and known property losses were limited to 11 structures, including at least four cabins, fire officials said. Around 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze.