FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., May 22 (UPI) -- Residents of communities near Flagstaff, Ariz., have been warned to be ready to leave their homes as a fast-moving wildfire continues to spread.
The Slide Fire, which was reported Tuesday afternoon in Oak Creek Canyon south of Flagstaff, had expanded to almost 5,000 acres by Thursday morning, fire officials said. About 300 buildings, including a Forest Service fire tower, were in danger.
Fire Information Officer Tony Sciacca said winds between 18 and 25 mph were driving the fire through brush and grass after a dry winter.
Officials in Coconino County issued pre-evacuation notices in Kachina Village and Forest Highlands, warning residents Wednesday to pack anything they might need for a stay of several days elsewhere. The two communities were about three and a half miles north of the fire.
Sciaccia warned the fire "will move fast on you."
Many flights into and out of the Flagstaff airport were cancelled Wednesday because of smoke from the fire.
At a community meeting Wednesday afternoon in Kachina Village, Forest Service officials said firefighters hope to hold the blaze at a forest road where bulldozers had cut additional fire lines.
"Even if there are high winds, the hope is that once it gets to that line, it won't go any farther because it will burn itself out," Coconino National Forest spokeswoman Heather Noel told the crowd.
More than 800 firefighters were struggling to bring the blaze under control.