Wildfires Burn in Utah, Arizona & California

A wildfire burning Wednesday through a dense Arizona forest has forced hundreds of people from their homes, closed a major road and created a huge plume of smoke over the same area devastated by a blaze that killed 19 firefighters four years ago.

The fire in the mountains about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Phoenix, fanned by 35 mph (56 kph) winds, has charred more than 28 square miles (73 square kilometers). More than 500 firefighters were battling the blaze.

Elsewhere across the western U.S., Utah firefighters braced Wednesday for more high winds as they try to slow a stubborn wildfire that has burned 13 homes and forced the evacuation of 1,500 people from a ski resort town.

And in California, a wildfire destroyed the home of “Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki on a ranch in the San Luis Obsipo area, said Nicole Perna, a spokeswoman for the 42-year-old actor.

The Arizona fire forced the evacuation of the northern Arizona town of Mayer along with several other mountain communities in the area, and one of the main roads into nearby Prescott was closed. Mayer has about 1,400 residents.

Many residents have painful memories of a 2013 wildfire that killed 19 members of an elite Prescott-based firefighting crew almost four years to the date, and some struggled to leave their homes behind.

Residents of Mayer say they struggled to leave behind their homes.

The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/2uixPQi) reports that Mayer, Arizona, resident Terry Jackson put a garden hose to the roof after local authorities told him he had to evacuate. Jackson said his home is all he has and he has to protect it.

Pam Baker, who lives next door, wet the thick brown grass around her home but resisted leaving.

“I’ll go . when it’s time,” she said on Tuesday evening. “It’s not time.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in statement Wednesday that the fire is the state’s top priority.

Ducey said his office is receiving constant updates from state fire officials. He said the next 24 hours will be critical and that the state will provide whatever support is necessary.

The current blaze is burning in chaparral that has not had a fire in more than 40 years, helping fuel its growth. It’s also in steep, rugged terrain that makes it difficult for firefighters to reach.

“Firefighters are being directed to not put themselves in situations where the risks are high and probability of success is low,” the Prescott National Forest said in a statement.

The communities of Pine Flat and Breezy Pines already have been evacuated with potential evacuations ordered for Walker, Potato Patch Campground, Mountain Pines Acres and Mount Union if the fire continues to grow, Yavapai County spokesman David McAtee said.

In Utah, firefighters hope Wednesday to douse areas with intense blazes at the Utah fire’s southern end so residents can return to homes in the town of Brian Head. Homes there have been evacuated since June 17 since authorities said the fire was started by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds on private land.

The Utah fire is the largest in the nation at 78 square miles (201 square kilometers).

In California, crews were making gains against two new fires that spread quickly. Firefighters in Idaho battled five lightning-sparked wildfires burning in grass and brush.

Source: Associated Press