"Fuelled by historic drought conditions, the wildfire season opened early this year in the rugged mountains of Arizona. By Friday morning, crews were fighting more than a dozen blazes in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, California and Utah. A few small towns were under evacuation order, and at least 170 square miles of brush and forest had been consumed by flames.
In New Mexico’s Gila national forest, fires started by lightening strikes tripled in size over the last 48 hours, with high winds forcing firefighters to the sidelines. More than a dozen summer cabins in the town of Willow Creek were destroyed as the fire burned across 110 miles of steep forested canyons.
"The fire had been around about 10 days, lurking and creeping and then kaboom, it exploded," said Tabitha Sims, secretary of the Willow Creek landowners association, told local reporters. "They made a heroic effort at trying to build a break, but I think it was unfortunate that this wind event happened to come right at the worst time."
Much of the state was covered in a haze, with local television stations reporting poor air quality in Albuquerque, some 170 miles away. High winds, with gusts of 60mph were expected until Sunday, blocking fire crews from cutting a containment line ahead of the fire.
In Arizona, meanwhile, more than 1,100 fighters, backed up by aircraft, were slowly containing the most dangerous fire,the Gladiator fire, which had forced the evacuation of the old mining ton of Crown King and consumed 27 square miles of pine and brush north of Phoenix.”