Strong winds scheduled for Friday could have a devastating affect on the Arizona Wallow Fire currently burning through Arizona and New Mexico, authorities have admitted.
There is a big risk that the winds could undo a lot of the containment work fire crews have progressed on throughout the week.
Terry Stemmler, a spokesman for the Southwest Incident Management Team said, “Yes, it is a threat. Anything could happen.”
Thursday marked the beginning of a period in which fire crews will face four straight days of “red flag warnings.” A “red flag warning” indicates that weather conditions will include strong winds and low humidity; perfect conditions for fires to be sparked and to spread.
According to CNN, a spokesman for fire crews, Dale Thompson, said, “This whole part of the country is in extreme drought. Grass will take off like gasoline.”
A red flag alert has been issued on a majority of eastern Arizona, from the borders of Mexico to the Utah state border. Additionally, large parts of western and north-eastern New Mexico have been issued the same alert.
By Thursday late evening, the Arizona Wallow Fire has covered 487,016 acres in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, authorities reported. The fire at that point was still only 33 percent contained, and there are fears that the strong winds over the coming days could put that figure at risk.
A spot fire on Thursday to the south of Eagar town in Arizona prompted authorities to issue a “pre-evacuation notice” to 230 homes in the area, which means they should be prepared to leave at any time. Residents of Eagar have been back home for less than a week after returning home just last Sunday following their initial evacuation from the Wallow Fire.
In a separate fire to the south, the “Monument Fire” has also burned nearly 12,000 acres and is less than 20 percent contained. That fire is affecting the Huachuca Mountains near the Mexico border with Arizona.
Despite evacuations being announced to almost 2,000 homes, reports told of some residents that refused to leave. Carol Capas, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office explained: “We had a situation where a family said they were staying behind ...We got a teenage daughter who later called us from that home and said she didn't want to be there so our officers went over there and got her out.”
The Wallow Fire has become the largest fire in Arizona's history.