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U.S WILDFIRE RAGES ON, THOUSANDS EVACUATED

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SPRINGERVILLE Arizona, U.S.A - A raging forest fire in eastern Arizona that has already forced thousands from their homes headed for a pair of transmission lines that supply electricity to hundreds of thousands of people as far east as Texas. The 1,572sqkm blaze were expected to reach the power lines Friday. If the lines are damaged, parts of New Mexico and Texas could face rolling blackouts.
Meanwhile, an Arizona sheriff ordered remaining residents of two towns in the path of the wildfire to evacuate. About 7,000 people live in Springerville and Eagar and surrounding areas.
  • The blaze has blackened about 389,000 acres and destroyed 11 buildings, primarily in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. No serious injuries have been reported. Firefighters have been concerned that high afternoon winds could carry embers causing new, smaller spot fires.
  • Firefighters have spent the past few days trying to create a line where they could defend the towns. They used bulldozers to scrape off vegetation and hand crews to remove other fuels. Late Wednesday afternoon, the streets of Springerville were mostly empty.
  • Apache County sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement officers could be seen going house-to-house as they looked for any remaining residents.
  • The fire prompted Texas-based El Paso Electric to issue warnings of possible power interruptions for its customers in southern New Mexico and West Texas.
  • The company uses two high voltage lines to bring electricity from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix to the two states. Losing the lines would cut off about 40 per cent of the utility's supply, possibly triggering the rolling blackouts among its 372,000 customers.
  • Winds in the area were expected to gust up to 56km per hour on Wednesday. Officials in Catron County, New Mexico, told residents of Luna to be prepared to leave if winds push the blaze into western New Mexico.
The blaze, burning in mainly ponderosa pine forest, was sparked on May 29 by what authorities believe was an unattended campfire. It became the second-largest in Arizona history on Tuesday. It has cast smoke as far east as Iowa and forced some planes to divert from Albuquerque, New Mexico, some 320km away. Firefighters were also trying to protect the mountain towns of Alpine, Greer and Nutrioso. Thousands of firefighters, including many from several western states and as far away as New York, are helping.
Source: Agency
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