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Arizona Fires Creep Toward New Mexico

June 7, 2011

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June 7, 2011 — A huge forest fire in Arizona has destroyed around 94,000 hectares (230,000 acres) of forest, and forced some 2,500 people in rural communities to evacuate as firefighters battled the blaze.

There are no reports of casualties from the fire, but the third largest blaze in the state’s history was nowhere near containment on Tuesday, with high winds and low humidity fueling the inferno expected to continue for days.

Governor Jan Brewer on Monday signed a declaration of emergency in response to the wildfires, with her office saying the action released $200,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Funds to pay emergency responses and recovery expenses.

Over 2,500 firefighting personnel were battling the blaze, backed by 22 helicopters with equipment to douse the inferno with water were brought in to help in the battle, officials and local media said.

A huge smoke cloud from the fire was meanwhile billowing over the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest about 185 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of Phoenix, near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Firefighters said the blaze, which escalated Saturday, was largely out of control. The Arizona Division of Emergency Management reported that people in the Apache National Forest ignited the blaze on May 29, though its exact cause is still under investigation.

The pair of images above, both taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 6, 2011, provide complimentary information about the vast Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona. In the top true-color image, smoke billows from the rapidly growing fire. The fire beneath the smoke is outlined in red.

The lower image, made with visible and infrared light, strips the smoke away to illustrate just how large the fire is. Freshly burned land is dark red, and actively burning hot spots are bright orange. Over the course of the day, the fire grew from 192,746 acres to 233,522 acres. Beyond the fire, unburned forest and brush are bright green. The surrounding desert is tan and pale pink. Clouds are bright turquoise, and smoke is a duller shade of blue-green.

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