Wildfires across Arizona have forced hundreds to evacuate their homes, fleeing blazes — including one that has already consumed over 100 square miles — as the state grapples with a spike in confirmed coronavirus infections.
The Bush Fire, around 30 miles northeast of Phoenix, has burned over 64,000 acres since Saturday, according to fire officials. Firefighters will have to battle winds that are expected to reach 20 to 30 miles per hour as well as dry summer heat, with temperatures above 100 in places, said Dee Hines, a fire agency spokesman.
“That makes for some rapid fire growth — extreme fire behavior,” Mr. Hines said of the conditions.
About 1,600 people living east of the fire were ordered on Monday morning to evacuate, with those in another community north of the fire ordered on Tuesday to do so, officials said. Mr. Hines said he was not aware of any structures that had been destroyed in the Bush Fire.
The fire started on Saturday after a burning car pulled off State Route 87, setting nearby grass on fire, Mr. Hines said. The incident is under investigation, officials said. That highway was closed, along with recreational sites in the area.
Those ordered to evacuate face the challenges of relocating amid a statewide spike in coronavirus cases. Officials instructed evacuees to “avoid close contact with those who are sick” and “practice public health recommendations when relocating.”
Arizona has reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the last several days, with people across the state flocking to bars and clubs after the state’s stay-at-home order expired on May 15. But even as cases began to increase sharply late last month, Gov. Doug Ducey said he would not consider bringing back earlier restrictions.
The Bush Fire comes as firefighters struggle to contain additional fires on opposite sides of the state.
The Mangum Fire, north of the Grand Canyon, has burned nearly 30,000 acres near the Utah border and is at 3 percent containment, while the Bighorn Fire, raging north of Tucson, has burned nearly 15,000 acres and is at 30 percent containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
On Tuesday afternoon, around 150 residents of Summerhaven, a small hillside community threatened by the Bighorn Fire, were ordered to evacuate, according to the Pima County Sheriff’s Office.