With an hour's notice, some 2,000 residents of Prescott, Ariz. temporarily fled their homes Wednesday as an 800-acre wildfire bore down on the city.
Six homes were burned Wednesday, said Steve Sams, a spokesman for the Prescott National Forest.
Although firefighters reported making progress on gaining control of the blaze Wednesday evening, fire officials said homes were still in danger. Hundreds of people took temporary shelter at the Prescott Mile High Middle School. Many were allowed to return to their homes Thursday.
Many officials fear this is only the beginning of what could be a catastrophic fire season for the west. They are urging residents to have an evacuation plan for their families and their pets, as well as a plan to save irreplaceable items such as family Bibles and photo albums. Churches are being advised by denominational response groups to engage in disaster preparedness training, and to develop a plan for keeping historic church records off-site if possible.
Prescott, a city of some 33,000 people, is 90 miles north of Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Jane Hull declared a state of emergency.
The western U.S. is tinder-dry, and Arizona is among several western states that had their driest fall and winter in more than a century.
Some residents report they are living in constant dread of wildfires.
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