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Wildfires span across 11 states

Two firefighters killed in Florida as more than 1.4 million acres in 11 states are blackened

GREER, AZ (UPI) | June 22, 2011

Fifty-three wildfires have burned about 1.4 million acres in 11 states and resulted in the deaths of two firefighters in Florida, officials said late Tuesday.

Florida Division of Forestry rangers Josh Burch, 31, and Brett Fulton, 52, were killed Monday while fighting the Blue Ribbon fire in Hamilton County, Fla., CNN reported. The fire had been declared contained but division spokeswoman Amanda Bevis said the fire suddenly flared, killing Birch and Fulton.

Two firefighters who were injured trying to rescue Birch and Fulton were expected to recover, Bevis said.

A fire near Grimes County, Texas -- which authorities said was caused by homeowners grilling -- destroyed at least 26 homes and burned more than 4,000 acres. Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell said authorities have identified a person of interest who may have built the barbecue pit where the fire started, but arson is not suspected, KHOU-TV, Houston, reported.

The National Interagency Coordination Center said fires from Florida to Alaska have burned at least 2,166 square miles, including 853,518 acres in Arizona and New Mexico, where the Wallow fire has burned 527,774 acres. Officials said the Wallow fire, the largest wildfire so far this season, was about 56 percent contained Tuesday.

Residents of Greer, Ariz., were being permitted to return to their homes Tuesday but evacuation orders were still in force elsewhere in Arizona and in Luna, N.M., CNN said. Residents in parts of Apache County, Ariz., have been told to be prepared to evacuate.

The Monument fire in southeastern Arizona was declared 40 percent contained Tuesday, officials said.

Authorities said they were watching a fire in Pender County, N.C., that had burned 4,000 acres.

Meanwhile as other parts of the state continued to be tinder dry, record-breaking rain and high winds hit North Texas Tuesday causing widespread electrical outages.

Rainfall at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport was well over the previous daily record for June 21 by 7 a.m., the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The National Weather Service said 2.72 inches had been recorded, including 2.16 inches between 3 and 4 a.m., more than twice the 1.07 inches that fell in 1926.

The rain, the first to fall in June at the airport, came close to the monthly average.

The storms passing across the area had winds as high as 75 mph and were also accompanied by large hail.

The utility company Oncor reported 30,000 people were without power.

Temperatures have been around 100 degrees in the region.

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