A mammoth forest fire has expanded today as wind-whipped flames tore through the canyons of the eastern mountains, forcing firefighters to retreat from the flames that raced through the popular vacation spot, Greer. The fire is raging uncontained along Arizona's eastern border as high winds and low humidity triggered a declaration of emergency to coordinate the entire state's response.
The National Weather Service has issued a 'Red Flag Warning' for southeastern Arizona, most of New Mexico, as well as parts of northern Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma amid critical fire weather conditions.
Officials ordered the evacuation of 8,000 residents from Springerville and Eager while the flames from the Wallow fire are threatening power supplies across the region. This may lead to blackouts through sections of Texas and New Mexico.
The blaze has burned well over 600 square miles of ponderosa pine forest, driven by wind gusts of more than 60 mph, since it was sparked May 29 by what authorities believe was an unattended campfire. Half the size of Rhode Island, the fire has become the second-largest in Arizona history. It cast smoke as far east as Iowa and forced some planes to divert from Albuquerque, N.M., some 200 miles away.
Thousands of firefighters, including many from several western states and as far away as New York are helping out and forest supervisor Christopher Knopp said the cost of fighting the Wallow fire has approached $8 million and is rising.
Here's a look at the latest photos out of Arizona: