More than 3,000 firefighters and responders eastern Arizona took advantage of less windy conditions late this week to mitigate damage by the massive Wallow Fire whichm, aiding in the effort to carry out burnout operations to get rid of extra fuel surrounding a pair of towns with thousands of homes.
Responders were set to build protective fire lines around the towns of Eagar and Springerville on Friday where about 5,000 residences are at risk. The fire, almost in its second week, has already charred 638 square miles and destroyed 53 structures, including 29 residences.
Progress has been made in the fight as the fire is now 5 percent contained on its northeast side.
Weather conditions have improved from earlier in the week when a 'red flag warning' was in place due to high winds and low humidity.
Winds, which are expected to remain below 14 miles per hour on Friday night, are expected to pick up on Saturday to as high as 30 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
On Sunday critical fire conditions were expected to be possible. Very dry conditions will continue with wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour.
The fire put the evacuated Eagar and Springerville in harm's way on Thursday. The towns were evacuated Wednesday afternoon.
Area Command Team 3 reported that the number of threatened structures grew from 588 on Wednesday to 5,242 by late Thursday.
Just across the state border, pre-evacuation orders were in place for New Mexico's unincorporated Luna village.
There were 5 damaged homes in the towns of Alpine and Nutrioso, authorities said. Residents would be informed and receive a certified letter confirming the damage.
Arizona National Guard troops have been assisting fire crews with three fuel tanker trucks , 20 palletized load system trucks to help with an logistical and transportation requests.
The office of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said no requests for security support have been made at this time.
However two 40-person platoons of military police are ready to respond within 24 hours and coordinate with the Apache County Sheriff's office.
Second Major Fire
Meanwhile, about 60 miles south the smaller Horseshow Two fire continued to burn. It has charred just over 200 square miles (128,652 acres), according to the Rocky Basin Type-2 Incident ManagementTeam.
More than 1,000 responders are working to mitigate damage, as the fire is 40 percent contained. Twenty-three structures have been destroyed and the cost so far to fight it has reached $33.5 million.