Southwestern forest fires call for evacuation and resource depletion

Flagstaff, Arizona “Arizona’s wildfire has more than tripled as relentless winds have pushed flames through neighborhoods on the outskirts of a college and tourist town, keeping hundreds of residents away from their homes and destroying more than two dozen structures.”

The fire continued to spread Wednesday through dry grass and scattered Ponderosa pines around homes in volcanic ash fields, where underground roots can catch fire and send small stones flying through the air, fire officials said. Constant spring winds and gusts of 50 miles per hour (80 km / h) prevented firefighters.

“This is a warning to the rest of the state,” said Fire Information Officer Dick Fleischmann. “If you have dry grass next to your house, it’s time to clean it.”

The National Meteorological Service has issued a red flag warning for Thursday, which means the wind will favor the rapid spread of fires, said Brian Klimowski of the National Meteorological Service. A strong front is heading in the area on Friday.


“This is a scenario for good / bad news,” he said. “The good news is that temperatures will be lower, relative humidity will rise. Bad news, the winds will be even stronger on Friday. “

Klimovski said there would be a chance of rain on Friday. “But it will also be dry. So, people, we have entered our fire season. This year will be long. “

Fire managers are struggling with limited resources as forest fires burn around the southwest. The United States has 16 national fire management teams of the highest level, four of which are dedicated to the Arizona and New Mexico fires, something Fleischman said was rare in this early season of forest fires.

Hundreds of people were evacuated by wildfires north of Flagstaff and south of Prescott, Arizona.

In New Mexico, the Mora County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation for more residents as winds ignited a fire that burned more than 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) since Sunday. Meanwhile, another fire broke out in a wooded area along the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque on Wednesday afternoon.


Warnings with a red flag were included in New Mexico on Wednesday and the rest of the week, as well as in parts of Northern Arizona on Thursday. The winds are expected to intensify on Thursday and Friday, said Mark Stubblefield of the National Weather Service.

In Colorado, new wildfires have sparked evacuations in Monte Vista, a city of about 4,150 people in the southern part of the state, as well as near Longmont. Monte Vista Police Chief George Dingfelder confirmed that structures had been lost. He said investigators had “no idea” how many there were and no reports of injuries or missing persons. The spread of the fire was stopped and the teams put out hot spots. Earlier, flames and rising smoke could be seen on a street surrounded by buildings when fire crews responded, according to a video by a reporter for the citizen of Alamos.


“Almost immediately, there were some structures that caught fire. “Sometimes we tried to stand in front of that fire and not interfere with it because the winds and other things were so strong,” Dingfelder said.

He said investigators still do not know what caused the fire, which burned about 17 acres.

The number of decares burned in the United States so far this year is about 30% above the 10-year average, a figure that rose 20% earlier this month as the fire risk shifted from the southern United States to the southwestern part. a part where temperatures above average and precipitation below average are combined with spring winds to increase the chances of more catastrophic fires.

On the outskirts of Flagstaff, where tourists and locals enjoy hiking and horseback riding trails, camping sites and a vast expanse of ash fields for off-road use, the flames rose to 100 feet (30 meters). Popular national monuments, including Sunset Crater and Vupatki, have been closed due to a wildfire.


“It’s just a unique community and we’re happy to live here,” said John Stoner, who evacuated his home on Tuesday. “We feel very lucky with the views we have and the surrounding forest.”

The homes of some residents were burned to the ground, although Coconino County does not say exactly how much. Officials said on Tuesday night that 766 homes and 1,000 animals had been evacuated and about 250 structures remained under threat.

A man who was reportedly caught in the house by the flames managed to get out, Coconino County Sheriff’s spokesman John Paxton said on Wednesday.

Firefighters were expected to cross the neighborhoods on Wednesday to cool all smoldering areas and assess what was most at risk. Paxton said no injuries or deaths were reported.

Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said he could not commit to a time when residents would be allowed back into their homes. Tanks with propane, combustible and other hazardous materials still pose a risk around homes, he said. Roads may not be safe, stumps may still be smoldering and utilities have not been inspected, he said.


“There is still active firefighting in these areas and we need to ensure safe entry,” he said.

US 89, the main route between Flagstaff and far northern Arizona, and the Navajo communities, remained closed.

The fire started on Sunday afternoon northeast of Flagstaff and the cause is being investigated. The county declared a state of emergency after a wildfire rose from 100 acres (40 hectares) on Tuesday morning to more than 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) by evening. It was valued at more than 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire crews have not yet detained any of it.

The surrounding mountains were shrouded in smoke as ash fell from the sky. Residents say they have heard propane tanks burst in the flames.

Late Tuesday, Lisa Wells saw a puff of smoke in front of her window. Soon the smoke turned black, the wind picked up, and whole trees were engulfed in flames. Within seconds, her family was ready to flee. Wales grabbed medicine and the family was taken to safety, their alpacas, horses and dogs.


They set off and stopped in the parking lot of a tavern to process what had happened – where she was standing on Wednesday, her blue heel Bandit at the end of a leash.

“It was a miracle that people came out because we had so little time,” Wales said.

The house they bought 15 years ago with a barn and guest quarters, the strange one that had horizontal studs held together by feather and groove boards, didn’t last long. The winds shifted and blew flames over an open field and onto the house that Wales’ husband, Bill, was remodeling little by little.

The fire destroyed the main house and the barn. The only thing they managed to recover from the ashes was a gray porcelain dove that Bill Wells gave to his wife. It was part of a collection of collectibles.

“It was the only thing we found so far, but it means a lot and we will keep it,” said Lisa Wells. “I love birds.”

The family’s real birds and goats did not survive the fire, which left a mosaic of ashes and blackened debris in the neighborhood.


“We had to leave some of the animals there,” she said.

She also thought about the decades of photography she left behind and the baby grand piano, built in 1890, given to her by her grandmother, an opera singer. They are also gone.

“It’s just things, you know it’s all just things and what matters is your family,” she said. “We think day in and day out, we know it’s going to work out.”

For now, they are staying in a hotel, where Bandit and brothers and sisters Lily and the Bear, who are hybrid German Shepherds, are also welcome.

They still love Flagstaff, the city of 70,000, nestled in the largest neighboring Ponderosa pine forest in the United States, but she worries about how dry the landscape has become.

“We will restore, we will do it. This time with a tree block, “she said with a hearty laugh. “I probably won’t use wood.”

Neighbors offered their homes to evacuees and their backyards to animals, including sheep, goats and horses. The shelter was set up at a local high school, where a community meeting was planned for Wednesday night.


Elsewhere in Arizona, a wildfire burned 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers) of shrubs and timber in the woods about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Prescott. Several small settlements, including summer houses and hunting lodges, were evacuated.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix and Susan Montoya Brian of Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to the report.

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Southwestern forest fires call for evacuation and resource depletion

Source link Southwestern forest fires call for evacuation and resource depletion

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