The Latest: California wildfire surging

AP News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2016 10:30 PM
The Latest: California wildfire surging

ESTANCIA, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires in the Western U.S. (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

A fire in California coastal canyons has grown by thousands of acres and winds are rising as the sun sets.

Fire officials say the blaze west of Santa Barbara had consumed more than 9 square miles of brush by Friday evening and continues to put about 270 homes and ranches at risk.

The fire is 20 percent contained. So far, the only damage has been to an outbuilding but campgrounds and some ranches remain under evacuation orders.

About 1,200 firefighters and a fleet of aircraft have been battling the flames.

Overnight, so-called "sundowner" winds gusting to 40 mph or more spread the flames and forced closure of a freeway, U.S. 101.

Fire officials say the winds are rising again. The area also is seeing rising temperatures as a weekend heat wave begins.

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5:50 p.m.

The wildfire in east-central Arizona still threatens several communities, but crews continue to make good progress and hope to have it 30 percent contained by Friday evening.

The fire's progress toward Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside remains halted about a quarter-mile short of so-called trigger points that would prompt evacuations.

The latest update on the fire burning about nine miles southwest of Show Low puts its size at nearly 15 square miles, including thousands of acres set on fire by fire crews to deprive the fire of fuel.

There are 650 firefighters on the ground and more heavy air tankers have been requested.

Fire officials say much of the wildfire is burning in terrain too rugged for safe work on the ground, so crews have concentrated on clearing fire lines along a highway, roads and a power line.

The fire began about noon Wednesday and its cause is under investigation.

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5:30 p.m.

Firefighters in Utah are fighting three wildfires in the southern part of the state and authorities say they are making some progress.

The U.S. Forest Service said Friday that a wildfire threatening homes and structures near Cedar City is about 5 percent contained, and a fire a couple miles south is also about 5 percent contained.

No evacuations have been ordered. A third small wildfire in the area also was burning, though the terrain is too steep to send in ground crews. All three fires were sparked by lightning.

Cedar City is about 250 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

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1:30 p.m.

Authorities in east-central Arizona's White Mountains are sending mixed messages on whether visitors should avoid the area because of a wildfire threatening several communities.

The fire's progress toward Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside was halted about a quarter-mile short of so-called trigger points that would prompt evacuations, but officials say the fire remains a danger.

Navajo County spokesman Adam Wolfe said during a briefing Friday that people should postpone or cancel their plans to visit the area because pre-evacuation advisories remain effect.

However, Show Low Mayor Daryl Seymore said during the same briefing that businesses remain open and that people already planning to visit the area should still visit, and a representative of the White Mountain Apache Tribe said recreation areas on the tribe's reservation are many miles from where the fire is burning elsewhere on the reservation.

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1:30 p.m.

Authorities say firefighters contending with 100-foot flames have made progress in keeping a New Mexico blaze that destroyed two-dozen homes from moving farther north toward rural, mountain communities.

However, fire information officer Denise Ottaviano said Friday the 26-square-mile fire remains extremely active as hot, dry weather stifles attempts to contain it.

Lighter winds gave firefighters some reprieve as the size of the fire held steady through Friday morning and crews worked to hold fire lines established the night before.

The fire that erupted in the Manzano Mountains south of Albuquerque on Tuesday has been fueled by downed timber and thick ponderosa pine stands.

Air tankers and helicopters are dropping retardant and water on the east perimeter in an effort to protect homes.

The cause is under investigation.

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8:05 a.m.

A wildfire churning through coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara has ballooned to more than 6 square miles.

The latest size estimate Friday morning is nearly three times the previous acreage, with just 5 percent containment.

The fire has been stoked by the region's afternoon and evening "Sundowner" winds, which blast down the face of the Santa Ynez Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean.

Fire authorities say Sundowners are expected through the weekend, possibly peaking in intensity Saturday evening.

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8 a.m.

A wildfire racing across central New Mexico has charred more than 26 square miles and destroyed two dozen homes near the small community of Chilili.

Authorities said Friday that the latest infrared mapping shows the fire is holding south and west of State Highway 337 and is a half-mile from Chilili, which was evacuated earlier this week as the fire ballooned in size thanks to hot, dry and windy conditions.

Authorities expanded the area covered by mandatory evacuations overnight to include a few more subdivisions. They could not immediately say how many homes were immediately threatened by the fire.

Several roads are closed in the area and shelters have been set up in surrounding communities.

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7 a.m.

A wildfire west of Santa Barbara is still burning out of control in coastal canyons above the Pacific Ocean.

The blaze burned down to U.S. 101 overnight, forcing closure of one of California's major north-south highways from 8:30 p.m. Thursday until it was reopened shortly before dawn Friday.

The fire was last measured at just over 2 square miles, but that number is expected to increase when officials hold a late-morning press conference.

The blaze broke out Wednesday afternoon and has been churning through vegetation that hasn't burned in decades. Despite vigorous fire activity, there have been no injuries and no loss of homes.

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7:39 a.m.

A wildfire burning in tinder dry forest and grassland in central New Mexico southeast of Albuquerque has destroyed 24 homes and 21 minor structures.

Fire managers released the damage information overnight after saying previously that the blaze destroyed some structures near the small community of Chilili as it made a big push Wednesday night.

Approximately 630 personnel are assigned to the fire. It has burned 25 square miles since it started Tuesday morning.

The cause remains under investigation.

Gov. Susana Martinez declared a state of emergency hours before residents in Chilili, Mercid, Escobosa and Yrisarri were forced to leave their homes Wednesday.