Ariz. Blaze Races to 120,000 Acres
Fri Jun 21, 2:21 PM ET
By ALISA BLACKWOOD, Associated Press Writer
SHOW LOW, Ariz. (AP) - Authorities announced Friday that the mammoth
fire racing through eastern Arizona had grown to 120,000 acres, destroyed
at least 12 homes in the mountain community of Pinedale and remained
an immediate threat to two other abandoned towns.
As many as 8,000 people have evacuated four communities west of Show
Low, a town 125 miles northeast of Phoenix. One of them was Pinedale,
an upscale town of 400, which was swept by the fire Thursday.
Winds Worsen Arizona Wildfires
Fri Jun 21, 6:01 PM ET
By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer
SHOW LOW, Ariz. (AP) - Fanned by blowtorch winds, two explosive wildfires
took double-barreled aim at Arizona mountain towns Friday as
firefighters desperately cleared brush and doused homes with flame-retardant
The frantic work was being done in Clay Springs
and Pinedale, where the 120,000-acre Rodeo
fire had already destroyed at least a dozen homes.
Officials feared the blaze would merge with a fast-moving, 14,500-acre
fire farther west, creating an even bigger challenge for already overwhelmed
Temperatures rose into the high 80s, and wind gusts neared 45 mph
with low humidity. Officials said the mix of weather and bone-dry trees
was a recipe for an inferno.
"The forest is burning like you're pouring gasoline on it, and
the wind is like taking a blowtorch to it," fire spokesman Jim
Paxon said in Show Low, 10 miles east of the threatened towns. "This
fire's going to rear its ugly head again and grow."
He added: "It's a situation that shouts, `Watch out!' It raises
the hair on your skin."
Some 8,000 people have been evacuated from Pinedale, Clay Springs,
Linden and a community farther west since
Wednesday. An additional
11,000 people in and around Show Low were told to be ready to evacuate.
About 100 homeowners in Linden and Clay Springs have refused to leave,
Paxon said. He warned that they could become trapped by flames.
"We will not put firefighters at risk to go in and get them out,"
he said. "When houses burn, it's too late to try to escape. Those
people are going to
be pretty well pinned in."
On the first day of summer, the wildfire situation across the West
already appeared desperate, in large part because of severe drought.
government's National Interagency Fire Center said 1.99 million acres
have burned across the country so far this year double the 10-year
and fire officials said their resources were stretched thin.
In Colorado, three wildfires have burned more than 201,000 acres and
destroyed at least 141 homes. Thousands of people remained out of their
The Rodeo fire began Tuesday and exploded from 1,200 acres Wednesday
to 120,000 early Friday, racing through parched stands of pine, juniper
and pinon trees right to the edge of Clay Springs and Linden.
Shasta Perkins fled Linden with her sister, brother and parents. They
have been holed up since Wednesday in Show Low, awaiting word about
their home and whether they may be forced to leave once more.
"You get upset and then you hear a bit of good news and you're
joyful for that," she said. "Then you hear something else,
and it brings you back down."
"I never thought of losing anything to fire," said her grandfather,
Pete Peterson, who has lived in the area for 80 years. "Now you
realize we should take northern Arizona right off the map. How are you
going to sell black land?"
As they spoke, fire crews dug lines around a canyon southwest of Show
Low to try to stop the blaze from reaching the town, which serves as
the commercial hub of the area 125 miles northeast of Phoenix.
Authorities hoped the Rodeo fire would not merge with the second fire
near Heber-Overgaard, which forced fire crews
to abandon their efforts Friday afternoon. That blaze has already forced
4,000 people out of their homes, and crews were trying to stop its spread
to the south and west toward the Rodeo fire, only a few miles
The second fire was started by a lost hiker signaling for help. The
first also was thought to be manmade, though authorities did not know
whether it was an accident or arson.
The fires have rattled nerves across a normally tranquil region known
for its mountains and mild weather. Nestled against the White Mountains,
the area is a major draw for hikers and campers and serves as a summer
getaway for city dwellers escaping the heat in Phoenix.
In southwestern Colorado, wind pushed a fire northeast of Durango
to 59,000 acres. Fire officials said it burned 14 more homes, bringing
the total estimated lost to 47. More than 1,760 homes have been evacuated.
Some firefighters had to retreat. "They saw some stuff they've
never seen before," said Bill Paxton, a fire information officer.
About 70 miles away, another fire grew to 6,000 acres and destroyed
11 homes near the community of South Fork, Colorado.
Colorado's biggest fire, the 137,000-acre blaze southwest of Denver,
was relatively quiet. It has forced 8,900 people from their homes since
it began June 8 and destroyed at least 79 homes.