US & Canada

More residents flee as Arizona Wallow fire grows

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Media captionEvacuee Robi Robidoux: "I'm worried about being made homeless"

A huge wildfire in the US state of Arizona that has forced thousands from their homes, continues to grow as the blaze rages for an 12th day.

The fire is heading for transmission lines that supply electricity to hundreds of thousands of people as far east as Texas. It could reach the power supply as early as Friday.

The so-called Wallow fire is now the second-largest in the state's history.

Two more towns in the fire's path were evacuated late on Wednesday.

Winds fuelling the fames drove the last hold-outs from Greer, a small town near the New Mexico border, and pushed out 7,000 residents from the nearby towns of Eagar and Springerville.

"We have a firefight on our hands. It's going to be tough, and we're going to be here a while," fire information officer Jim Whittington told the Associated Press news agency.

At this point, officials say, the wildfire, named after the Bear Wallow Wilderness area, is considered to be 0% contained.

Firefighters used bulldozers to clear away brush and trees in an effort to create a barrier for area homes as the fire approaches.

Image caption Authorities believe the fire was started by inattentive campers

Over the border in New Mexico residents of the town of Luna are on similar alert.

Winds have been moving the flames five to eight miles (8-13km) per day since it started more than a week ago, possibly caused by an unattended campfire.

Smoke rising from the flames had reached right across the country on Tuesday, visible six states to the east. Flights hundreds of miles away were cancelled.

No serious injuries were reported, but the fire cut into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, said fire incident command spokeswoman Dellora Guager, and the surrounding towns' futures remained in doubt.

No progress

The fire has now consumed 388,480 acres (607 sq miles; 1,572 sq km) according to a clickable map on the Arizona Republic website.

The roughly 2,500 firefighters battling the blaze - drafted in from as far away as New York - are being hampered by winds of about 30mph (50km/h), with gusts above 60mph (100km/h).

As of Wednesday, there had been no progress in containing the fire but it was hoped some gains would have been made by Thursday or Friday, said Matt Benson, a spokesman for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

"It's entirely dependent on weather conditions in that part of the state right now," he said.

A state of emergency has been declared in the counties of Apache and Greenlee.

This is the second largest fire on record in Arizona - a blaze in 2002 burnt through 732 sq miles (1,900 sq km) in the centre of the state.

As well as Arizona, smoke is said to be visible in New Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado - where some municipal health departments have issued air-quality warnings.

Image caption Thousands of residents are preparing to evacuate

Meanwhile, another wildfire is burning in south-eastern Arizona and threatening two small communities.

A thousand firefighters are tackling that blaze, which is listed as 55% contained, reported Reuters news agency.

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