(Photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott)
The unrelenting Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona gained more ground Wednesday evening, forcing the evacuation of two towns.
While residents of the town of Eagar were ordered Tuesday to evacuate, authorities Wednesday asked residents of nearby Springerville to clear out as well.
The Wallow Fire, the second largest wildfire in Arizona’s history, is closing in on the two towns that were already in pre-evacuation mode. About 2,700 people from mountain communities were evacuated days earlier, including from the towns of Greer, Sunrise, Alpine, Blue River, and Nutrioso.
Evacuees have been encouraged to seek shelter at the American Red Cross facility in Pinetop-Lakeside, but many residents are putting up at relatives’ home.
As of Tuesday evening, the Wallow Fire had consumed 389,000 acres of land. The latest report describes the raging blaze as having scorched 607 square miles.
Firefighters are working hard to contain the wildfire, but are facing a serious obstacle from the strong winds that are tossing flames miles away. After 11 days, the Wallow Fire is still 0 percent contained.
The Wallow Fire started May 29 as a small fire but began to balloon in size last Wednesday. By Sunday it had burned 144,000 acres and by Tuesday nearly 400,000 acres.
Although still unconfirmed, fire officials believe that the mammoth wildfire was caused by an unattended campfire.
“I’m trying to protect my belongings as best I can,” said Wayne Lutz, an Eagar resident, to Reuters. “But if push comes to shove, I can be out of here in 10 minutes,” he said on phone. “The house is insured. My life is not.”
Meanwhile, 66-year-old local Jeanne Udall said, “There’s nothing we can do. It’s out of our control and into the Lord’s hands.”
Despite the lack of success in containing the Wallow Fire, no one has been reported injured apart from the loss of 11 structures.
Larissa Tenorio, a Christian Post commenter, remarked on a Wallow Fire article yesterday, “One of my friends is a firefighter who went to this fire and I haven’t heard from him for 4 days…I pray for the safety of the firefighters and for those who are in the path of destruction…”