5 wildfires consume 6,000 acres in Arizona

May 14, 2012 at 6:12 PM
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CROWN KING, Ariz., May 14 (UPI) -- Five Arizona wildfires consumed nearly 6,000 acres and led to mandatory evacuations from the town of Crown King, officials said.

A shelter was established Monday for Crown King evacuees at Mayer High School in the nearby town of Mayer, Red Cross officials announced.

The fires seared nearly 3,100 acres in the Tonto National Forest,The Arizona Republic in Phoenix reported Monday.

A fire that burned about 600 acres in the Bradshaw Mountains destroyed three buildings and forced officials to evacuate Crown King, fire officials said.

Another fire, started Thursday by a lightning strike, burned through about 700 acres near a fish hatchery on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

A fire on the San Carlos Indian Reservation scorched about 1,150 acres and another near Kingman burned at least 50 acres.

The fire in Yavapai County, affecting the 350 residents of Crown King and called the Gladiator Fire, is one of the smaller wildfires currently burning in the state, but threatens the most structures. At least two homes and a storage trailer have been burned, the newspaper said.

None of the separate fires has been reported as contained.

"I can't explain why we have a burst of fire activity ... but I can say the fact that so many of the fires we have are seemingly problematic this early in the year is unusual," Cliff Pearlberg, a Tonto National Forest spokesman, told the Republic.

Jim Paxon, a spokesman for the state Game and Fish Department, said he isn't surprised by recent fires, given record high temperatures, high winds and single-digit humidity.

"All fire needs is an ignition," Paxon said. "This wind really pushes fire, and they're going to burn fast and hard."

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