Crews try to protect Ariz. communities from fires

Mike Taylor, right, and Kelly Busby from the Arizona Department of Transportation work at a Picnic Hill checkpoint Saturday. Two wildfires had burned more than 230,000 acres, officials said.

Associated Press

Mike Taylor, right, and Kelly Busby from the Arizona Department of Transportation work at a Picnic Hill checkpoint Saturday. Two wildfires had burned more than 230,000 acres, officials said.

TUCSON, Ariz. — Crews in Arizona worked Saturday to protect several small communities from two large wildfires by clearing away brush near homes and planning to set fires aimed at robbing the blazes of forest fuels.

The Wallow Fire near the White Mountain community of Alpine grew to 218 square miles, or more than 140,000 acres, by Saturday morning.

The fire is the third largest in state history, with smoke from it visible in southern Colorado. Fire officials said they had zero containment of the fire near the New Mexico-Arizona state line, which has forced an unknown number of people to evacuate.

Crews were working to protect homes in Alpine and nearby Nutrioso from the fire and blowing embers that could start smaller, spot fires, said Bob Dyson, a spokesman for the team fighting the blaze.

Authorities warned residents of the town of Greer on Friday night to be ready to leave.

The fire ranks just behind the state's two largest wildfires in size. The largest was the 469,000-acre Rodeo-Chediski in 2002, followed by the 248,000-acre Cave Creek complex fire in 2005.

Crews also were trying to protect a church camp and two communities from the Horseshoe Two fire that had burned 90,000 acres in far southern Arizona.

Crews try to protect Ariz. communities from fires 06/04/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 10:12pm]

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