(Photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott)
Authorities have said the Arizona Wallow Fire is likely to become the largest in the state’s history, as it continues to threaten homes and is still only five percent contained as of Friday morning.
However, favoring weather reports predicting weakening winds, which have been driving the blaze at an unstoppable speed until now, may give fire crews their best opportunity yet to contain the fire further.
Thousands have fled the path of the fire since it broke out in late May, and it has spread wildly, burning an area of greater size than Los Angeles.
Firefighters confirmed that the fire has now destroyed 29 houses, including 22 in Greer, and crews were now informing evacuated residents whether their houses had survived or had been one of the unlucky ones destroyed.
A spokesman with the Southwest Interagency Incident Management team, Jim Whittington, told CNN, “It doesn't matter if they're rich or poor, if they live in a mansion or if they live in a very small house, the pain on people's faces is exactly the same. Our hearts go out to those folks and we're thinking about you.”
Whittington also announced that the fire was at the present time still only five percent contained.
However, it is hoped that the turning point has come in the fight to battle the Wallow Fire. Over Thursday, winds had already calmed significantly, and fire crews were able to hold the line in numerous areas, and prevented the fire from spreading to the towns of Eagar and Springerville.
Firefighters have been using all the techniques in their knowledge to hold back the blaze. One of these has been “backfiring,” where smaller controlled fires are lit in advance of the blaze reaching areas, with the hope that the already crisp timbers will kill the spread of the main fire.
Whittington spoke with hope that a turning point had arrived, saying, “We’ve been reacting to this fire since the beginning …this was the first day we’ve been able to go after it.”
Weather forecasts are predicting lighter winds for approximately 36 hours before winds increase again on Saturday afternoon.
On The Christian Post website, many readers left messages asking for God to bless those tackling the fire, as well as those affected in the ensuing devastation.
Stormy Dawn, from Anchorage, Ala., said: “Our guys, Crew 2 from Happy Camp and all the other responders have our thoughts and prayers. My honey is out there and he is good at what he does, they will get it under control, God bless them all.”
Sharon Leckington, of New Mexico Junior College said, “God bless and please keep safe all of our brave men and women who are working so hard to put this horrible fire out. Amen.”
Friday will be a crucial day in the fight back against the blaze. Whittington said, “Every minute, every second between now and when those winds hit, we've got to be doing really good work.”