Arizona wildfire triggers more orders to flee

Monday, June 6, 2011

GREER, Ariz. -- Authorities ordered more eastern Arizona residents to evacuate their homes Sunday as a 225-square-mile blaze that has grown into the third-largest in state history crept toward more buildings.

The Apache County sheriff's office told an unknown number of people east of the town of Alpine along U.S. Highway 180 to get out as the forest fire crept closer.

Alpine itself has been under mandatory evacuation orders since Thursday night, along with the community of Nutrioso and several lodges and camps in the scenic high country.

Subdivisions close to the New Mexico border that were ordered emptied Sunday included Escudilla Mountain Estates, Bonita, Dog Patch, and the H-V Ranch east of Highway 180, fire information officer Eric Neitzel said.

People packed up their belongings as smoke covered the mountain vacation towns in a smoky fog, and wind blew smoke from the burning pine forest well into nearby New Mexico and Colorado.

Crews have zero containment of the fire, which has been burning for a week.

In the vacation town of Greer, which has fewer than 200 year-round residents, many people voluntarily left Saturday.

Those who remained, mostly business owners, dealt with haze heavily tinged with smoke.

Greer is within miles of the fire, which officials expect will grow given a windy forecast and expected dry lightning today.

If the blaze comes within two miles of a containment line nearby, the town will be evacuated.

Winds died down overnight, allowing crews to burn 30 miles of containment lines between active and unburned areas that create a buffer from the most violent wind-driven runs.

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