Crews battling Ariz. wildfire fight high winds

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2012 9:03 PM
Crews battling Ariz. wildfire fight high winds

High winds increased the acreage of a northern Arizona wildfire Tuesday, but also blew flames away from an historic mining town.

The blaze near Crown King began on private land Sunday and has burned about 2 1/2 square miles Tuesday with zero containment. Fire officials said winds estimated at 35 mph pushed the size to an estimated 1,700 acres.

The fire has destroyed two buildings and one trailer, Prescott National Forest spokeswoman Debbie Maneely said. Authorities believe the blaze was started by a structure fire on private property.

The Crown King area remained under an evacuation order Tuesday, though authorities said most of the town's 350 residents had chosen to stay.

Crown King is a community of mostly summer homes about 85 miles north of Phoenix. It's a popular destination for all-terrain vehicles because of its numerous hills and gorges.

Taryn Denyce has been staying at the bed-and-breakfast she operates in the mountain community despite having no power due to the fire. Denyce said she can't leave to get more gas for her generator because the U.S. Forest Service won't allow people to re-enter Crown King.

"We have tons of food, but if we can't keep our freezers going we won't have any food," Denyce said. "I have three families working off of my generator."

While the high winds could make things harder for firefighters, officials say they also could help clear smoke from the blaze and several others in Arizona that has been shrouding the Phoenix area.

Smoke from a fire south of Payson fire drifted into Phoenix over the weekend. That fire was 7 percent contained Tuesday after charring an estimated 8,500 acres in the Tonto National Forest. Authorities have yet to determine a cause.

No structures in the high wilderness area are threatened.

The fires follow a warning from Arizona land managers that hot temperatures and dry vegetation have created a very high fire risk in some parts of the state.