The Latest: Officials: Thursday pivotal for Arizona wildfire


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

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.

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.

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This story has been corrected to show that the ExxonMobil site is not a refinery, but a crude oil processing facility.