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Hundreds Flee Arizona Blaze As Conditions Spur Numerous Wildfires Across Southwest

By Amy Held | NPR
Thursday, June 29, 2017

Gusty winds and soaring temperatures have spread wildfires in numerous states across the Southwest, forcing hundreds of residents from their homes.

The National Interagency Fire Center said Thursday that six states including Arizona, California and New Mexico are dealing with "multiple large fires," with more than 8,000 firefighters and support workers battling the blazes. The Interagency has raised the danger level, which helps mobilize additional resources.

In Central Arizona's Yavapai County, the Goodwin Fire — named for the area near where the fire started — has engulfed more than 20,000 acres of mostly scrubland known locally as chaparral. The fire is also threatening several residential communities, spurring the evacuation of at least 1,500 people, according to The Arizona Republic.

Stina Sieg from member station KJZZ in Phoenix spoke to some residents forced from their homes and seeking refuge at a Red Cross shelter in Prescott Valley. Many had just a few minutes' warning to grab what they could.

Shauna Shoat told Sieg that she and her toddler son fled their home in Poland Junction, along with their four dogs, two ducks and a chicken. "I can't even tell you how I feel right now, just shocked, devastated and not knowing for sure if I've got a home to come to that's still standing or not," Shoat said.

According to regional officials, the blaze was at just 1 percent containment on Thursday and the estimated containment date is July 4.

It comes on the heels of a near two-week heat wave that settled over the Southwest earlier this month, bringing temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The extreme heat "is one of the factors that we are dealing with," Tiffany Davila with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management told NPR. And in the days ahead, Davila says, "We are still going to see higher temperatures and windy conditions so all of that plays a part in how crews handle the fire."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency Wednesday, directing $200,000 of emergency funds and hundreds of emergency workers toward beating the Goodwin Fire.

On Friday, a day before the Goodwin Fire ignited, Ducey had already declared a state of emergency to help with fire suppression after more than a dozen fires were sparked since April, "aided by high temperatures, winds and available fuels."

Officials say lightning sparked the Frye Fire earlier this month. It continues to burn around 40,000 acres of rugged terrain in Arizona's Pinaleno Mountain Range. With more than 800 emergency workers battling it, the fire is at 45 percent containment.

In neighboring Utah, a massive blaze in Brian Head is burning around 60,000 acres, spurring evacuations.

And in California, multiple wildfires have also triggered dozens of evacuations and burned homes and cars, reports The Los Angeles Times.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service said hot and dry weather are continuing to linger across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, leading to an elevated fire risk.

CNN reports that fire officials are urging caution on Independence Day as fireworks combined with the conditions could lead to even more fires.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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