Firefighters in Arizona continue to battle wildfires raging across the state Wednesday and are working to prevent a large blaze near the Crown King community from moving into an area where it could rapidly spread.
If the human-caused Gladiator Fire near Crown King continues past the western fire line it could spread south, threatening many homes and businesses, Loretta Benavidez, a fire incident spokeswoman, told the Arizona Republic. Should this happen, it would be hard for firefighters to safely tackle the blaze and contain it.
There could be a potential for fire behavior that would not allow (firefighters) to go in safely, Benavidez said. With the potential for wind in the coming days, that's always a possibility.
The Gladiator Fire has been fueled by strong winds and dry weather. There have been no reported deaths, but three structures have been destroyed.
Despite evacuation oders, many residents chose to stay behind. But fire officials urged that they must head for safer grounds before it is too late.
(The residents) need to get out of there, fire spokeswoman Karen Takai told the paper Tuesday. Once the fire is in their backyard, we can't get them out.
The National Interagency Coordination Center issued a report Wednesday, stating that the Gladiator Fire has already scorched more than 2,000 acres. Crown King has been evacuated because of this fire, which is only 5 percent contained.
Officials said that there are four fires burning: Gladiator, Bull Fat, Sunflower and Elwood. Together they have consumed more than 17,000 acres so far. They were the first major wildfires to kick off the season in the state this year. Last year was a record fire season as more than 2,000 blazes consumed more than 1,500 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Bull Flat fire is 15 percent contained and has scorched 1,900 acres. Elwood is 5 percent contained and had blackened 1,600 acres. Sunflower, the biggest, is only 7 percent contained and has charred more than 12,000 acres. That is a size change of more than 7,000 in just 24 hours, officials said.
Learn more about the wildfires in Arizona from the seven-day outlook.