Evacuation orders expand as wildfires burn in Arizona

In this April 30, 2018 file photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a helicopter fighting a wildfire in north-central Arizona. (U.S. Forest Service, Coconino National Forest via AP,File)

Residents in about 90 homes west of Flagstaff were told to evacuate Thursday because of a wildfire in the area.

The lightning-caused fire has burned 54 square miles (141 square kilometers) of steep, rugged terrain, flatter land, and parts of wilderness areas. Firefighters were working ahead of the blaze Thursday to create a buffer between the fire and the homes to keep them from burning and the fire from reaching more populated areas.

Crews were going door-to-door to inform residents of the evacuation order.

“That smoke will get to a point where it’s just hazardous to health for them to be there,” said Coconino County sheriff’s spokesman Jon Paxton. “The hope would be that if the fire did approach that area, it would hit that area where they’re doing backburning and it would have nothing else to burn.”

A shelter was set up at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff. A virtual community meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening.

The fire was one of several burning across Arizona that has forced people to flee their homes and sent motorists on detours.

Residents in some communities near Pine and Strawberry aren’t expected to be allowed back in their homes for another week. A fire there has burned 63 square miles (164 square kilometers) and was 1% contained Thursday.

Most national forests in Arizona and state land is closed because of the wildfire danger.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.