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Thu, Oct. 17

250 homes east of metro Phoenix evacuated due to wildfire

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — About 250 homes east of metro Phoenix near a popular recreational lake are under evacuation orders because of wildfire moving quickly through shrubs and grass.

The human-caused wildfire in the Tonto National Forest near Roosevelt Lake has grown to nearly 79 square miles (204 square kilometers) since it started June 8. It is 41% contained and the cause is under investigation.

Firefighters are expecting to be challenged over the next few days by gusty winds, low humidity, high temperatures and the terrain. More than 875 people are assigned to the blaze.

The evacuated homes are in clusters within a 12-mile (19.3-kilometer) radius of Roosevelt Lake. Residents were given a heads-up Wednesday to prepare to evacuate and given the order to leave Thursday. The fire is several miles away from the homes, Gila County spokesman Josh Beck said.

"It wasn't so much of an imminent threat as it was because of the high winds and extremely low humidity," he said.

A shelter for residents and small pets has been set up at Lee Kornegay School in the Gila County town of Miami. Livestock can be taken to the Gila County Fairground in Globe.

The wildfire made a major run through a canyon in the pre-dawn hours Thursday, driving up the size.

Firefighters are focused on the north and northwest corner of the fire that is within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of a school of natural healing and about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the nearest copper mine. Firefighters burned a ring around the school to better protect it and reinforced existing barriers around a handful of mine sites, fire information officer Christa Sadler said.

A campground east of the dam that holds back the lake is closed, along with some roads and the Tonto National Monument that's home to two 700-year-old cliff dwellings. Sadler said firefighters were working to wrap the original wood components of the dwellings with a fire-resistant material.

The fire is burning in what's typically the driest time of the year before the onset of heavy rain during the monsoon season. The amount of precipitation over the winter and spring otherwise has been above-normal in most areas.

The Tonto National Forest was the first agency in Arizona to implement fire restrictions that limit campfires and smoking to developed areas earlier this month because of the wildfire. Others are following suit.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Colorado River District in western Arizona will be under the first stage of fire restrictions starting Friday. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management restrictions also start Friday and cover land in Gila, La Paz, Maricopa and Yuma counties, and Mohave County south of the Colorado River.

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