Northern Arizona watches winds as western wildfires blaze

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Calmer winds and cooler temperatures on Tuesday allowed firefighters across the western United States to better manage the blazes that have forced hundreds of people from their homes.

As red flag warnings expired and northern Arizona winds eased, firefighters took advantage of the weather changes to fight an 81-square-mile blaze from the air and on the edges of the blaze.

“They are optimistic about making progress,” said Cathie Pauls, fire department information officer.

The forecast for later this week called for the possibility of showers which could dampen the fire but could bring the possibility of new fires from lightning strikes.

Meanwhile, authorities downgraded evacuations for the larger of two wildfires burning on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona.

This fire ran into a wilderness area and reached a lava dome to the northeast, far from most neighborhoods. A house and outbuilding burned down, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said. About 350 homes remained evacuated on Tuesday.

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Another 280 homes were evacuated because of a smaller wildfire that burned about 16 square kilometers in a more remote area.

Sandra Morales planned to return home on Wednesday, a day after evacuations for her neighborhood were lifted.

However, she was concerned about the smoke, possible wind shifts and the risk of subsequent flooding in the fire area.

“The next thing we have to worry about is the monsoon and all that,” she said. “This debris, if it gets bad, will come down the mountain.”

Climate change and a prolonged drought have fueled the frequency and intensity of forest and grassland fires. Wildfire season started early this spring in several states.

The number of square miles burned so far this year is more than double the 10-year national average, and States like New Mexico have already set records with devastating fires that destroyed hundreds of homes while causing environmental damage expected to affect water supplies.

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According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 6,200 firefighters nationwide battled nearly three dozen uncontrolled blazes that charred across 1,780 square miles (4,611 square kilometers), much of it in the southwestern United States.

In southwest Alaska, favorable winds have delayed the progress of a fire that has burned 202 square miles (523 square kilometers) of dry grass and scrub, fire department managers said Tuesday. No one had been evacuated and no buildings were damaged or lost.

In California, firefighters reported significant progress in fighting a wildfire near the community of Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains, but evacuation orders and warnings remained in place. The fire has scorched about 1.5 square miles (3.9 square kilometers) since it erupted over the weekend and was 27% contained.

In Northern California’s Tehama County, firefighters were able to contain 30% of a fire that destroyed 10 buildings, damaged four others and threatened about 160 buildings, firefighters said.

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In a wildfire-related situation, an 50-mile (80 km) section of State Route 70 in Northern California remained closed indefinitely after mud, boulders and dead trees inundated lanes during flash flooding along a fire scar.

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Associated Press writers John Antczak in Los Angeles and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/14/northern-arizona-watches-winds-as-western-wildfires-blaze/ Northern Arizona watches winds as western wildfires blaze

Sarah Y. Kim

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