Southern Arizona wildfires

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- More homes are being threatened in Southern Arizona after high winds sent the monument fire exploding over Highway 92 near Hereford Road Thursday afternoon.

The flames have now spread more than 11,000 acres and the fire is just 17% contained.

At least 1700 homes have been evacuated.

People who live on the east side of Highway 92 were allowed back in their homes Thursday night to make evacuation preparations. But those residents were on pre-evacuation notice again, first thing in the morning.

Thursday was another red flag day for firefighters battling the growing monument fire, both in the air and by ground.

The billowing cloud of black smoke is enough to get Sergio Sarinana out of his home.

"People are really starting to get out of their homes and pack up and i think a lot of people are starting to see the seriousness of this fire," said Sarinana.

Sergio and his family pack some clothes, pictures and a few family heirlooms, not knowing if the rest of their belongings will be there when they return.

In the meantime dozens of cars have gathered here along Hereford road with their binoculars and cameras, many people just standing here and staring in disbelief.

"We decided we'd stop and take a look at it and  just kind of see how close it's getting to our house, but it's still a little ways away, and it looks like it hasn't jumped the highway yet," said Evacuee Sally Talbot.

Early Thursday afternoon the flames did jump the highway and curiosity turned to complete chaos.

Emergency crews immediately start closing off the highway south of Hereford Road, sending drivers toward Sierra Vista.

"I can't get over there to evacuate my other stuff, or even see if my son evacuated himself. I've tried to call him, he's not answering his phone. I don't know where he's at," said evacuee Mario Malendrez.

Traffic heading north on 92 began to pile up.

Sirens heading toward the fire serve as a reminder of the devastation residents are leaving behind.

"I just hope they get a handle on it real soon because I've lived here since 1967. Now that I'm older, i come down here to walk in the canyons and i hope there's something left," said Gary Thibedeau.

But with winds so strong and temperatures so high at this point no one knows where the flames will spread.

Governor Jan Brewer will take an aerial tour of the monument fire Friday, then meet with evacuees at the shelter set up at Apache Middle School.

Meanwhile the the Horseshoe Two fire in Cochise County is closing in on 200,000 acres.

Crews report containment growing Thursday to 60%.

The main concern again on Thursday was strong winds, which force crews to focus on containment lines and protecting buildings.