The Latest: Firefighters fear California “sundowner” winds


GOLETA, Calif. — The Latest on wildfires in the Western U.S. (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

Firefighters battling a 1,200-acre wildfire in California are hoping winds won’t kick up at nightfall and send the blaze roaring through canyons.

Authorities say about 140 homes and ranches would be at risk if “sundowner” winds hit the rugged coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara.

About 800 firefighters and fleets of aircraft are battling flames in steep terrain and 70-year-old accumulations of brush.

So far, there’s no containment.

Several campgrounds and canyon areas were evacuated when the fire erupted Wednesday afternoon.

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4:55 p.m.

Officials say fire lines are holding in the fight against a blaze threatening several communities with thousands of residents in east-central Arizona.

Officials said winds on Thursday had slowed from Wednesday, when the fire broke out and grew quickly.

It has charred about 12.5 square miles, including areas ignited by firefighters to deprive the fire of fuel.

Communities under pre-evacuation advisories include Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside. Only a few homes have been evacuated.

The blaze is burning about a mile from designated locations where the possible spread of the fire would trigger evacuations less than 10 miles away.

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4:20 p.m.

Officials say all electricity in areas of central New Mexico that have been evacuated due to a fast-moving wildfire is being turned off as a precaution.

Officials say the power was being disconnected Thursday in Chilili and other communities within the evacuation zone along the Manzano Mountains.

The fire sent up a huge plume of smoke as crews struggled against hot, dry and windy conditions. The blaze has forced dozens of residents to leave their homes as flames raced across more than 19 square miles.

Officials have been unable to say how many homes and other structures are threatened.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a grant that will help pay for fighting the fire.

Martinez declared an emergency Wednesday after the fire tripled in size.

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1:35 p.m.

Authorities in Utah say a firefighter has been injured battling wildfires in the southern part of the state.

The U.S. Forest Service said Thursday that the firefighter is recovering well after suffering a head injury in a fall. Crews near Cedar City are battling a nearly 400-acre wildfire that’s threatening 20 homes and structures as well as a 60-acre blaze a couple of miles south.

Firefighting aircraft took to the sky Thursday, a day after high winds kept them grounded.

No evacuations have been ordered. A third fire in the area also has burned about 100 acres, though the terrain is too steep to send in ground crews.

All three fires were sparked by lightning.

Cedar City is about 250 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

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1:15 p.m.

Close to 700 firefighters are working to protect structures and build lines ahead of a fast-moving fire that has charred more than 19 square miles in central New Mexico and forced evacuations in some small communities.

Fire information officer Denise Ottaviano said Thursday that several air tankers and helicopters are working the blaze in the Manzano Mountains, but there’s still zero containment.

She says winds are pushing the fire to the northeast and ground crews are stationed throughout the perimeter.

Officials say some structures have burned but crews are still entering an area near the community of Chilili to determine how many.

Others areas that have been evacuated include Mercid, Escobosa, Yrisarri and Ponderosa Pines. Ottaviano couldn’t say how many structures were threatened overall.

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12:20 p.m.

Authorities say a wildfire burning in rugged coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara is growing as it feeds on vegetation that hasn’t burned in 70 years.

Officials say there’s zero containment after the blaze erupted Wednesday afternoon on the flanks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The fire is officially listed at nearly 2 square miles, but officials say it’s expanding Thursday.

Among famous properties in the vicinity is Rancho del Cielo, which served as President Ronald Reagan’s Western White House. The fire was about a mile from the ranch at late morning and burning away from it.

Sheriff Bill Brown says his department has made 395 calls to residents so far ordering mandatory evacuations and an additional 33 have been issued warnings. It wasn’t clear if those calls were made to individual homes.

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11:40 a.m.

Fire officials in northern Nevada say a wind-driven brush fire on the southwest edge of Reno is partially contained.

Washoe County and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District said Thursday morning that the fire burned about 300 acres since Wednesday afternoon.

Officials said crews are working to mop up the areas around the fire and will monitor for any hot spots.

No structures are threatened. No evacuations were ordered, but voluntary evacuations were recommended at one point Wednesday with a temporary shelter set up as a precaution at Reno High School.

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11:20 a.m.

Authorities in the Show Low area of east-central Arizona say the weather Thursday will be pivotal in the fight against a wildfire that threatens communities with thousands of residents.

The blaze is burning less than a mile from locations that would trigger evacuations in areas about 10 miles away.

Pinetop Fire Chief Jim Morgan says the weather will be a key factor, particularly if winds again push the fire toward the communities.

Areas under pre-evacuation advisories include Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside. Only a few homes have been evacuated so far.

The blaze has charred about 12.5 square miles, including areas set on fire by firefighters to deprive the fire of fuel. Air tankers are dropping retardant and water to stop the flames from spreading.

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10:25 a.m.

Authorities say a wildfire burning in rugged terrain near several eastern Arizona communities has grown to more than 8 square miles.

Navajo County spokesman Adam Wolfe says several homes housing a dozen people have been evacuated. Officials also told thousands of residents in Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside and three other communities Wednesday to prepare for possible evacuations.

Wolfe says winds diminished overnight, helping firefighters who are burning areas ahead of the fire to deprive it of fuel Thursday. Aircraft also are dropping retardant and water.

The fire ignited Wednesday and grew rapidly to throw up a huge plume of smoke. It was charring brush and timber about 9 miles from Show Low.

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10 a.m.

A fire burning in central New Mexico that has forced evacuations and destroyed structures has charred more than 19 square miles.

Fire information officers say infrared mapping overnight helped officials determine a more accurate picture of the area that has burned. They couldn’t immediately say how many buildings were destroyed or whether any were homes because crews haven’t been able to access the area.

In just two days, the fire ballooned in size amid persistent hot, dry and windy conditions. When the fire was first reported Tuesday, officials pegged it at several acres.

Its cause is under investigation.

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9:05 a.m.

Authorities say a wildfire that’s burning out of control in rugged coastal canyons west of Santa Barbara is now posing little risk to a nearby oil processing facility.

Heavy winds had pushed the flames close to an ExxonMobil crude oil facility Wednesday and forced the evacuation of hundreds of campers and a handful of rural homes.

Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni says the danger to the facility is minimal Thursday. Several ranch homes were evacuated, but no structures have burned.

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Zaniboni says a fleet of planes are dropping water and retardant and crews are taking advantage of calmer winds as they build lines around the blaze. It’s charred nearly 2 square miles of dry canyon brush, and there’s no containment.

The wildfire is one of several burning in Western states, including New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

Source: washingtonpost

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