Western wildfires force evacuations in Arizona and California

WRIGHTWOOD, Calif. — Wildfires in Arizona and California have forced evacuations as crews scramble to contain the blazes, authorities said.

Firefighters are responding to a wildfire about 9.6 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona that has forced evacuations. The pipeline fire was reported at 10:15 a.m. Sunday by a fire watcher, Coconino National Forest officials said.

By late evening it had burned up to 7.8 square miles (20.2 square kilometers).

Forest Service law enforcement arrested and charged a 57-year-old man with violating natural resources, they said, without providing further details.

The Arizona Snowbowl and people living in the area west of Schultz Pass Road must evacuate, officials said.

Crews were also battling a fire in the area north of Flagstaff near Sunset Crater National Monument on Monday, US Forest Service officials said.

County sheriff’s officials said residents of Alpine Ranchos were being evacuated as a precaution and deputies were going door to door to let them know.

They said an evacuation shelter has been set up at Sinagua College.

Euelda King and her family evacuated their home for the second time this year due to wildfires. She hadn’t settled back in after a spring fire until she set out again on Sunday, this time able to take pictures and clothes she hadn’t had earlier.

“Here we go again,” she said.

The family of 11 plans to stay at the Navajo Nation Casino, which offers assistance to tribal members who have been evacuated.

The family waited in a parking lot in front of road closure signs, watching smoke billow into the air and planes fly overhead.

“The winds are strong, and I think they’re going to have a bit of a hard time with that,” King said.

Gusts were sweeping smoke across Schultz Pass toward Doney Park and authorities said recreation-goers should leave immediately, especially those in the Schultz Pass area.

The American Red Cross in Arizona opened a shelter at Sinagua Middle School for evacuated residents.

“With this thing going as fast as it is, it could get a lot closer, of course hoping it doesn’t,” King said.

Authorities said 13 engines, nine crew, six prevention patrol units, three bulldozers and a water tanker were involved in the fight against the blaze. An incident management team is due to arrive on Monday.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has closed U.S. Route 89. The department said in a Twitter post that there was no estimated time to reopen the road.

And in California, evacuation orders were in place Monday for remote homes near a wildfire that broke out over the weekend in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles, authorities said.

The Sheep Fire broke out Saturday not far from Wrightwood near the Pacific Crest Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said.

The blaze rebounded in growth on Sunday afternoon and overnight had burned about 1.5 square miles (3.88 km2) of pines and dry brush, officials said.

“Law enforcement is going door to door with a mandatory evacuation for Desert Front Road and Wild Horse Canyon,” according to a situation report Sunday. The number of people affected was unclear.

The rest of the mountain town of Wrightwood, with about 4,500 residents, was under an evacuation warning.

Several mountain roads were closed. The fire was only 5% contained.

To the west, in Los Angeles County, firefighters quickly surrounded a wildfire that broke out in the foothills above Duarte on Sunday. No homes were threatened.

The causes of the fires were under investigation.

Fire conditions were high due to hot, dry weekend weather in Southern California. Monday was expected to be cooler, but another heat wave was expected midweek, the National Weather Service said.

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