Arizona firefighters brace for winds

Windy conditions cause Gladiator Fire to grow to 8,000 acres

CROWN KING, Ariz. | May 18, 2012

"this is a buying-time day"

—Karen Takai

Windy conditions were expected to be the biggest challenge to firefighters during the weekend as they battle wildfires burning across Arizona, officials said.

Windy conditions helped the Gladiator Fire grow to about 8,000 acres Thursday night from about 5,400 acres earlier in the day, The Arizona Republic in Phoenix reported.

The historic mining town of Crown King mostly has been spared since the Gladiator Fire erupted Sunday as a house fire that ignited a propane tank. The fire burned about a mile from the town's center Thursday morning, but fire officials said Crown King could get lucky as winds push the flames away.

"This is a buying-time day," fire spokeswoman Karen Takai said, explaining that crews hope to drop retardant on the west side of the fire to help protect Crown King, and cell and radio towers.

Officials warned that the wind direction could shift on a moment's notice, threatening hundreds of homes scattered across the landscape of the Bradshaw Mountains.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for most of Northern Arizona including the areas where the fires are burning, the Republic said. Constant wind speeds were expected to be between 15-25 mph, with gusts reaching 40-45 mph.

The Gladiator Fire is 5 percent contained, officials said.

The Sunflower Fire 21 miles south of Payson scorched about 14,500 acres in the Tonto National Forest, the Republic said. The blaze is 15 percent contained.

The Bull Flat Fire, about 50 percent contained, burned 1,900 acres near the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation since it was ignited Thursday by a lightning strike.

The Elwood Fire on the San Carlos Indian Reservation has burned more than 1,506 acres and was 50 percent contained as of Friday.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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