Major wildfire chars 144,000 acres in eastern Arizona

PHOENIX: Firefighters battling a raging wildfire in eastern Arizona have made some slight progress in preventing the spread of a blaze that has charred 144,000 acres of prime forest, officials said on Sunday.More than 1,300 firefighters from across the nation worked to try to protect several small mountain communities and stop the stubborn wildfire, burning about 250 miles northeast of Phoenix.”They are making progress halting the advance of the fire,” Deryl Jevons, a fire information spokesman, told Reuters. “It’s not like we’ve shut it down. But we’ve had a better time of it in the last few days.”Weather conditions had been helping firefighting efforts, but there was fear on Sunday that wind speeds would increase and lightning might strike the area, Jevons said.The so-called Wallow Fire, which broke out a week ago, is now the third-largest in Arizona history. It was at zero percent containment.Several hundred residents in the small community of Alpine and tiny Nutrioso were forced to flee their homes late on Thursday, and American Red Cross officials said as many as seven residences were destroyed.There has been no estimate for when these residents would be able to return home.Residents in nearby Greer, Arizona, a town of several hundred people, have been put on notice about a possible evacuation. Fire officials said the fire is at least eight miles away.Smoke from the large wildfire also is cascading across the area and spreading into New Mexico and parts of Colorado.Arizona Governor Jan Brewer visited the fire scene on Saturday, telling reporters at a news conference that it was a “frightening sight” as she viewed it from a plane.But Brewer said she remained hopeful about getting the blaze under control.Also in Arizona, nearly 1,000 firefighters have better control of a major blaze burning in the southeastern part of the state.Officials said the Horseshoe 2 Fire has consumed more than 100,000 acres and prompted the evacuation of two small communities. That fire is 55 percent contained. – Yahoonews