The huge Wallow Fire in Arizona has seared dozens of houses and relocated thousands of people since it began on May 29, from an alleged unattended campfire in the White Mountains. The region is popular as a weekend escape from the summer heat.
Recent infrared aerial images of the blaze show that 733 square miles, or 469,407 acres, have been burned so far, eclipsing the 468,638 acres burned down in 2002 in eastern Arizona by the Rodeo Chediski Fire. This makes the Wallow Fire the biggest on record in Arizona.
The wind-lashed blaze has mostly burned in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, going through thick ponderosa pine.
Evacuation orders were lifted for about 8000 residents on Sunday as they were forced to escape two towns near the border of New Mexico: Springerville and Eagar. Authorities have warned returning citizens that lingering soot and smoke still pose health dangers for kids and people suffering from respiratory problems.
About 1900 more people from many nearby towns, who evacuated the area during the first week of the fire, were informed on Monday that it could some time yet before they could be allowed to go back home.
About 4300 firefighters are working continuously and have shaped containment lines around almost 18% of the perimeter of the fire. Most of them are between the eastern flank and neighborhoods on both sides of the Arizona and New Mexico line.
Luna, a New Mexico town of less than 200 people, has been on alert and evacuation is possible there. Controlled burns have been carried out on the outer edge of the town to eliminate tinder dry trees and bushes that might become fuel for the growing flames. According to the U.S. Fire Service officers, the Wallow Fire hasnâ€™t entered New Mexico so far, but could do so.
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