Wildfires spread across West due to drought conditions

Weather

GLOBE, Ariz. (NewsNation Now) — Firefighters gained a toehold Wednesday on a massive wildfire in Arizona, one of several burning across the Southwest and West in states facing dry heat and drought conditions.

The so-called Telegraph Fire burning south of Superior, about 60 miles east of Phoenix, went overnight from no containment to 21% contained, fire officials said in a news release.

More than 750 firefighters conducted burnout operations through the night to protect structures, including electric utilities and highway infrastructure. Overseen by the Southwest Type 1 Incident Management Team, crews will now focus on establishing a fire line along the Highway 60 corridor and in the Pinal Mountains.

In this photo provided by Joseph Pacheco, a wildfire is seen burning in Globe, Ariz., on Monday, June 7, 2021. Firefighters in Arizona were fighting Tuesday to gain a foothold into a massive wildfire, one of two that has forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns and closed almost every major highway out of the area. (Joseph Pacheco via AP)

The blaze, which has spread through Pinal and Gila counties, has burned more than 125 square miles

Thousands of residents across Globe, Miami and smaller communities have been stuck in various stages of the evacuation process.

At least 2,500 homes in Gila County have been evacuated, Carl Melford, the county emergency manager, said Tuesday. He estimated that there were twice as many households in the “set” mode with bags packed just in case.

In this photo provided by Rusty Bowers, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers walks through the remains of his family’s weekend home on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, that was destroyed by a wildfire the day before. Bowers used the home in the remote mountains as a family retreat and often did his artwork there. (Elijah Cardon/Rusty Bowers via AP)

Meanwhile, in Pinal County, Superior residents remain in “set” mode while hundreds were evacuated from the community of Top-Of-The-World.

The fire also forced closures on most highways leading out of town. However, US 70 between Globe and Fort Thomas reopened Wednesday.

The blaze was first reported Friday and is believed to be human-caused.

Firefighters on another wildfire several miles east made significant progress Wednesday with 33% containment. The so-called Mescal Fire southeast of Globe forced residents of three communities to evacuate. But around 150 residents from Soda Canyon and Coyote Flats communities were allowed to return home.

In New Mexico, crews also were fighting blazes, including one that was sparked by lightning three weeks ago in the Gila National Forest. It has charred more than 71 square miles and has forced the closure of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and much of the surrounding wilderness.

While fire restrictions have been in place for New Mexico’s forests since earlier this spring, some cities recently opted for fireworks restrictions ahead of the July 4th holiday. They are citing elevated fire danger as hot and dry conditions persist across the region.

Residents in New Mexico’s largest city woke up Wednesday to find Albuquerque once again shrouded in smoke from the fires in Arizona. The yellow haze stretched up the Rio Grande Valley and obscured views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Utah, mired in extreme drought, was facing multiple wildfires Wednesday. The largest blaze is one that is estimated to be 3,500 acres in size.

“It was definitely burning through the night,” Type 3 Incident Commander Jason Porter told NewsNation affiliate KTVX. “After our flight, we are seeing some good options, some opportunities to get in there and slow the fire’s progress.”

While US-6 remains open, drivers are asked to avoid unnecessary travel through the area for their safety and the safety of firefighters.

Gov. Spencer Cox said this was the state’s worst drought in decades and announced a fireworks ban for all state lands and unincorporated private lands to reduce the risk of wildfires.

In California, the Intanko fire in Yuba County has burned 950 acres and is only 50% contained.

Officials with Beale Air Force Base said the fire began around 2:30 p.m. near the Vassar Lake Gate, north of Camp Far West Reservoir.

According to a spokesperson, the fire chief for Beale Air Force Base ordered residents living in base housing east of East Garryanna Drive to evacuate immediately. The Vassar Lake Gate was also closed.

NewsNation affiliate KTXL spoke to a family who lost their home in the Intanko Fire. 

“We saw the fire first coming up over here and then the wind was so strong that within less than 5 minutes, it went from over there, jumped the road and our firebreak, and then came onto our property and then within a couple of minutes our house was on fire,” homeowner Jennifer Houston told KTXL.

Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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