Wildfire keeps raging in Arizona, U.S.

09:18, June 22, 2010      

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A raging fire spread near Flagstaff, U.S. state of Arizona on Monday, charring nearly 9,000 acres (about 3,645 hectares) and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Firefighters worked through the night against the Schultz Fire that erupted Sunday on the outskirts of Flagstaff, a forested mountain city.

The fire had burned 5,000 acres (2,025 hectares) by Sunday night and estimates had grown by close to 4,000 acres (1620 hectares) by Monday, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.

States of emergency were declared in Flagstaff and the Coconino County, and officials closed U.S. 89 highway, a key route to Grand Canyon National Park.

A federal management team was taking over direction of the effort Monday, a move that will expand access to firefighting resources, the report said.

Coconino County fire spokesman Eric Neitzel said the fire had moderated somewhat by midnight but was still strong.

The National Weather Service predicts southwest winds in the area could reach up to 20 mph Monday with gusts as high as 31 mph. But the wind should decrease to about 8 mph sometime Monday night.

About 300 firefighters were battling the fire, aided by five helicopters and eight air tankers.

The Schultz Fire is one of the 16 fires across the West, according to U.S. Forest Service.

On Sunday, firefighters gained an upper hand on another fire, named the Hardy Fire, in southeastern Flagstaff. Evacuation orders for the fire were lifted.

Randall Wayne Nicholson, 54, of California, was arrested in connection with the Hardy Fire. He was being held on a misdemeanor charge of burning of a wild land.

There have been no reports of serious injuries or damage to buildings.

Source: Xinhua


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