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Arizona wildfires are growing; wind, low humidity add to trouble

[with Video]

May 16, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Wildfires continued to grow in Arizona, with the largest fire spreading to 12,000 acres, almost tripling in size in just 24 hours, officials said Wednesday.

Even as the weather continued to be less than favorable for fighting the four major blazes in the state, containment was increasing, officials said. No deaths have been reported, and just three structures have reportedly been destroyed.

The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook extending into next week for the regions surrounding the four fires: Gladiator, Sunflower, Elwood and Bull Flat. Low humidity -- less than 12% -- and gusting winds of up to 40 mph are expected. Both conditions are likely to hamper firefighting efforts.

Overall, the four fires are burning on about 17,500 acres, officials reported Wednesday. That was an increase from about 12,705 acres the day before.

The largest fire, Sunflower, is burning about 20 miles south of Payson in the Tonto National Forest. It grew to 12,000 acres overnight, from the 4,600 reported by officials Monday morning.

Sunflower is about 7% contained, up from 5% the day before, officials said.

In the closely watched Gladiator fire near the historic mining town of Crown King, about 2,000 acres have burned, up from 1,600 the day before. Evacuations have already been ordered for the town of about 350 people located in the Prescott National Forest. Three structures have been destroyed.

The Gladiator blaze was caused by a house fire that ignited a propane tank. It was about 5% contained, officials said.

The Elwood fire, burning on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, has consumed more than 1,600 acres and was 5% contained.

The Bull Flat fire, near the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, had shrunk by 3,100 acres to 1,900 acres but was still burning.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the Hewlett fire near Fort Collins continued to burn on 400 acres. It was 5% contained.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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