Arizona blazes grow as wildfire season peaks

Posted: Updated:
Boundary Fire near Flagstaff. (Source: Kaibab National Forest) Boundary Fire near Flagstaff. (Source: Kaibab National Forest)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Multiple wildfires have prompted evacuations in southern Arizona and a highway closure in northern Arizona as the state heads into peak wildfire season.

Rising temperatures, dry vegetation and lighting continue to spark fires throughout the state. Tiffany Davila, a spokeswoman for the state forestry department, said wildfires this year have outpaced those to date last year.

In 2017, Arizona has seen 830 wildfires that burned about 200 square miles (518 sq. kilometers), up from the 819 fires that burned about 165 square miles (427 sq. kilometers) to date last year. There are currently 20 active fires in Arizona, some of which are controlled burns that don't endanger homes or landmarks.

[RELATED: Brush fire closes US 180 from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon]

Arizona's wildfire season generally spans from mid-May to early July, but is extended by several weeks every year, Davila said.

State forestry officials predicted two months ago southern Arizona would have a higher fire risk than northern, forested parts of the state, because winter rain and snow increased the amount of vegetation that fuels fires in later months after it dries out.

On Friday, the National Weather Service warned northwest Arizona residents that high winds and low humidity could cause fires to spread more easily in the afternoon and evening.

The heightened fire danger means campfires and other activities that could start fires should be avoided. The area under a so-called "red flag warning" includes the entire Kaibab National Forest and includes the area north of Flagstaff where a wildfire forces a highway closure.

Officials closed a section of State Route 180 about 10 miles north of Flagstaff Thursday night because smoke from a fire burning on the slopes of Kendrick Mountain restricted visibility. The fire grew to more than 2 square miles (5 sq. kilometers) Thursday because of high winds. It was ignited after lightning struck a wilderness area west of the state highway last week.

Dry lightning, or lighting without rain, is more common in summer months leading up to monsoon season, said Hector Vasquez, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. As more moisture pulls into Arizona, rains begin to accompany the lightning storms, decreasing fire danger.

In southern Arizona, hundreds of Cochise County residents have evacuated or are prepared to leave at a moment's notice to escape wildfires that have already destroyed an empty home. The two wildfires caused by lightning in the mountains east of Benson merged early Friday morning.

[MORE: Wildfires in small Arizona communities prompt evacuations]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona wildfires]

Cochise County Sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas said Friday about 30 families in Cochise Stronghold and half of Dragoon's residents have evacuated their homes, running from a wildfire that has charred about 12 square miles (31 sq. kilometers) since it started Tuesday afternoon.

Capas said the rest of the community is ready to flee.

Gerry Perry, a spokesman for the Coronado National Forest, said 220 firefighters and 25 engines are managing the fire. He said he has no estimate for when it will be contained, and he expects it will be a long fight.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PD: Woman who hit, killed motorcyclist in Scottsdale had BAC of .355

    PD: Woman who hit, killed motorcyclist in Scottsdale had BAC of .355

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 3:21 PM EDT2017-10-18 19:21:14 GMT
    Investigators said Tracy Shelden Morehouse had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.355 percent when she hit Greg Dolphin, who was stopped at the red light on Scottsdale Road at Princess Drive. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Scottsdale Police Dept.)Investigators said Tracy Shelden Morehouse had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.355 percent when she hit Greg Dolphin, who was stopped at the red light on Scottsdale Road at Princess Drive. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Scottsdale Police Dept.)

    Investigators said Tracy Shelden Morehouse had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.355 percent when she hit Greg Dolphin, who was stopped at the red light on Scottsdale Road at Princess Drive on Aug. 13.

    More >

    Investigators said Tracy Shelden Morehouse had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.355 percent when she hit Greg Dolphin, who was stopped at the red light on Scottsdale Road at Princess Drive on Aug. 13.

    More >
  • A painful pumpkin patch warning about ticks

    A painful pumpkin patch warning about ticks

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 12:27 PM EDT2017-10-18 16:27:32 GMT
    A California woman warning about ticks in the pumpkin patch. (Source: Facebook)A California woman warning about ticks in the pumpkin patch. (Source: Facebook)

    A woman has taken to Facebook with a painful warning for anyone heading to pumpkin patches this fall.  In the post Jennifer Velasquez says she contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever after wearing flip-flops and shorts to a pumpkin patch.  Jennifer Velasquez

    More >

    A woman has taken to Facebook with a painful warning for anyone heading to pumpkin patches this fall.  In the post Jennifer Velasquez says she contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever after wearing flip-flops and shorts to a pumpkin patch.  Jennifer Velasquez

    More >
  • ASU student carjacked by Malzahn describes encounter as 'horrific'

    ASU student carjacked by Malzahn describes encounter as 'horrific'

    Thursday, October 19 2017 7:49 AM EDT2017-10-19 11:49:53 GMT
    Shannon McCrea, a 20-year-old college student said Charlie Malzahn, the main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Cathryn Gorospe, threatened to her hurt and then stole her car the night of Oct. 8, one day prior to his arrest. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Shannon McCrea, a 20-year-old college student said Charlie Malzahn, the main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Cathryn Gorospe, threatened to her hurt and then stole her car the night of Oct. 8, one day prior to his arrest. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    A 20-year-old college student said Charlie Malzahn, the main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Cathryn Gorospe, threatened to hurt her and then stole her car the night of Oct. 8, one day prior to his arrest.

    More >

    A 20-year-old college student said Charlie Malzahn, the main suspect in the disappearance and murder of Cathryn Gorospe, threatened to hurt her and then stole her car the night of Oct. 8, one day prior to his arrest.

    More >