Arizona wildfires force more evacuations, highway closures

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Telegraph Fire June 7
Arizona’s Telegraph wildfire, shown in this June 7, 2021, photo taken on U.S. 60 near milepost 221 just west of Superior, Arizona, continues to blaze. Fires have closed parts of U.S. 60 and state routes 70, 77 and 177 in the Superior-Globe-Winkelman area. (Courtesy: Arizona Department of Transportation via Twitter)

PHOENIX — Authorities ordered additional evacuations and closed several stretches of highways in south-central Arizona on Sunday, June 6, as hundreds of firefighters battled two wildfires that were growing in gusty winds and temperatures approaching 100 degrees east of Phoenix.

Evacuations were ordered Sunday for residents in Top-of-The-World area along U.S. Highway 60 about 60 miles east of Phoenix and 10 miles northeast of Superior where the Telegraph Fire was burning out of control.

The Pinal County sheriff’s office also began to evacuate the Oak Flats campground. Residents of Superior, a town of 3,100, were told to be ready to flee on short notice.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

U.S. 60 was closed in from Superior, Arizona, to Miami, Arizona, along with State Route 177 from Superior to Winkelman, Arizona, and State Route 77 from Winkelman to Globe, Arizona.

About 150 firefighters were battling the blaze, which has burned 53 square miles of mostly shrub and grass since it broke out Friday, June 4, and continues to threaten as many as 150 residents, Tonto National Forest spokesman John Scaggs said Sunday.

Firefighters lit back fires in excess fuels south of the fire to help keep the flames from encroaching on Superior, but the fire had no containment on Sunday.

The largest type of federal incident management team assumed control of the operation and more crews were on their way.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation shelter Sunday at a local school in Miami and at Skyline High School in Mesa. Large animals also were being sheltered at the Birch Stockyard in Globe and the Apache Junction Rodeo grounds.

Meanwhile, air tankers and helicopters were assisting more than 500 firefighters who continued to work the Mescal Fire about 12 miles southeast of Globe. The fire nearly tripled in size because of high winds, low humidity and hot temperatures on Saturday to an estimated 40 square miles on Sunday.

Estimated containment shrank from 5% Saturday to only 2% by Sunday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Gila District Office.

New evacuations were ordered in Coyote Flats. Existing evacuation orders remained in place for several areas on the outskirts of Peridot and the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Fire officials expected subsiding winds would allow them to make more progress into the night Sunday on the Mescal blaze, which broke out June 1.

“Temperatures and humidities to remain hot and dry, with winds slowing decreasing to about 15-20 mph,” the latest update said.

The causes of both fires remain under investigation.

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