A wildfire in Utah burning across nearly 50,000 acres with 100-foot flames has forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 people, fire department officials said on Tuesday.
In Arizona, a wildfire that has charred more than 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) burned and forced the evacuation of the town of Mayer, population about 1,400, and other areas as a precaution. Crews are facing dry, windy conditions and a "high potential" for extreme fire behavior. It's also in steep, rugged terrain that makes it hard for firefighters to reach.
They say the estimated firefighting costs now top $7 million for a fire started June 17 near the Brian Head Resort by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds.
The US's largest wildfire has forced more than 1,500 people from their homes and cabins in a southern Utah mountain area which is home to a ski town and popular fishing lake.
Update: Tuesday June 27, 11 a.m.: New information from the fire incident center says the fire grew to more than 49,000 acres overnight and is now 10% contained. The fire shut down Highway 79 in both directions between Beaumont and San Jacinto because it was burning on both sides of the road.
Firefighters on Wednesday will continue to protect structures in the Panguitch Lake, Dry Lakes and and Blue Springs area.
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Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for residents in some areas threatened by the blaze, though it was not clear how many people were affected, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.
Most of the fire's latest spread occurred on its northern flank, as winds up to 30 miles per hour propelled flames into parched old growth conifer, beetle-killed timber, sagebrush and grass.
"There's no question that our inability to manage the forests the way they should and could be managed has led to more destruction", he said.
The fire is the largest in the nation at 78 square miles (201 square kilometers).
The fire was ignited by human activity, but officials said they were still investigating the precise cause.
Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said Noel's assertion is an over-simplification of wildfires that are the result of fire suppression, climate change, drought and unpredictable winds. The Arizona Republic reports another unauthorized drone was spotted Sunday, temporarily halting aerial efforts to put out a fire northwest of Flagstaff that is 88 percent contained.