Too Many Trees Feed Colorodo Fires.

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Too Many Trees Feed Colorodo Fires.

Some 4,000 Flee Ariz. Wildfire By Alisa Blackwood
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, June 20, 2002; 12:07 AM SHOW LOW, Ariz. "“"“ As many as 4,000 people were ordered out of their homes Wednesday as a wind-whipped wildfire exploded to 25,000 acres as it leaped from treetop to treetop in the mountains of eastern Arizona.Authorities ordered the tiny towns of Linden, Pinedale and Clay Springs evacuated, said Kartha Icenhour of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The fire is about 110 miles northeast of Phoenix.The news came as a federal grand jury in Colorado charged a U.S. Forest Service employee with arson in the largest fire in the state's history.The Arizona fire had been burning on 600 acres early Wednesday before winds sent it racing through thousands of acres of juniper and pine trees. Officials feared it would soon bear down on the three hamlets, and smoke could be seen in Show Low, a community of 7,700 people about 20 miles from the flames."It's smokier than you would ever believe outside," said Linda Parrish, owner of the Show Low Flower Shoppe. "It's a big, black thundercloud with red tinges to it. It's an awful, ugly looking smoke cloud."Parrish said she and her husband had already packed their most important possessions in case they had to flee. Evacuation centers were being set up at schools in the region.Gov. Jane Hull declared a state of emergency to free up state funds to fight the blaze, which began Tuesday and was being investigated as possible arson.By late afternoon, the fire had reached a rim and was burning in flat terrain, said Dorman McGann, a fire information officer for the national forest. The fire was not expected to slow significantly unless the wind diminished. Forecasts called for the wind to slacken somewhat overnight but pick up again Thursday.Authorities said fire crews would work through the night.The fire was one of 16 major blazes burning across the nation Wednesday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Overall, wildfires have scorched 1.75 million acres so far this year, more than double the 10-year average on this date.There were also evacuations in New Mexico, where authorities went door-to-door in Pecos, southeast of Santa Fe, to clear 20 families from their homes in advance of a 3,400 wildfire.In Colorado, veteran Forest Service worker Terry Barton was charged with deliberately setting the Hayman fire southwest of Denver, which has grown to 135,000 acres, destroyed at least 25 houses and forced 7,500 people from their homes since June 8.The charges were filed after prosecutors expressed doubt in her story that the fire got out of hand as she burned a letter from her estranged husband.The stunning news came as Colorado crews desperately looked for an edge against two huge wildfires burning out of control, taking hope from slightly lower temperatures and weaker winds. The fires "“ the largest in state history "“ have gobbled up thousands of new acres this week.The Hayman fire ballooned by 22,000 acres on Tuesday, and it sent a yellow haze over parts of the metropolitan area again Wednesday."We're hoping it doesn't make the big gains today it made yesterday," fire information officer Bobby Kitchens said.A fire in Colorado's southwestern corner grew to 53,888 acres by Wednesday evening and threatened more than 400 homes. Smoke and haze drifted over the Durango area as the fire burned in forests around two reservoirs. It has destroyed at least 33 homes and 26 other structures, and more than 1,700 homes have been evacuated.Crews were more focused on saving homes than battling the fire itself because it was spreading so quickly."We're a long way from having a handle on the fire," information officer Mark Morrow said. "We don't want to lose homes that have already been saved once."A new fire erupted Wednesday and spread across 800 acres in the Rio Grande National Forest, about a mile south of South Fork in southwestern Colorado.The situation in Colorado was so drastic that President Bush declared the two large fires a major disaster and ordered federal aid to help state and local efforts in areas hit by wildfires since April 23. Federal funding will include disaster housing, grants, and other programs.In California, cooler weather favored firefighters battling a half-dozen major blazes. The wind had died down near Yosemite National Park, where a wildfire was burning across 21,760 acres. Three firefighters were killed in an air tanker crash Monday while battling that blaze.Federal investigators were at the scene Wednesday hoping to determine why the wings of the C-130A snapped off before the crash.