Entries in wallow fire (11)


Cousins Blamed for Massive Arizona Wildfire

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- A Gummi Bear wrapper may have touched off the largest wildfire in Arizona's history.

The blaze, which began in late May, scorched 538,000 acres in Arizona and a portion of western New Mexico.  All told, 32 residential structures were destroyed along with 36 outbuildings.  It cost an estimated $79 million to extinguish the fire.

According to authorities, cousins Caleb Joshua Malboeuf and David Wayne Malboeuf, both of Arizona, are charged in connection with the wildfire.  The two men said they were camping at the Apache National Forest and had taken all precautions to douse their campfire.  However, David Malboeuf said that before leaving he'd tossed an empty Gummi Bear wrapper on the fire and thought it was okay to leave for a hike because it didn't melt.

As they returned, they noticed a forest fire had developed and was too intense for them to retrieve their two dogs and camping gear.

The cousins, who will appear in court next month, are charged with five counts including leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished and leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it.  If convicted, they each face a maximum of six months in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Activist Criticizes McCain for Blaming Wildfires on Immigrants

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain came under fire recently for stoking Arizona’s heated immigration debate by blaming undocumented immigrants for the state’s recent wildfires.

Activist Randy Parraz criticized McCain’s comments on ABC’s Top Line Tuesday, saying there was little proof of the senator’s claim.

“He could have said that Boy Scouts of America started this fire,” Parraz said.  “When you claim that there's substantial evidence you need to be able to produce that and he did not do that.”

Parraz, a Democrat, said Arizona’s climate is politically charged and sensitive, and McCain’s comments served to “fan the flames of fear and intolerance.”

McCain made his comments at a press conference on Saturday.

"There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain, R-Arizona, said in an interview aired on Phoenix’s KTVK.  The senator further suggested that immigrants are setting fires to “signal others,” “keep warm,” or to “divert law enforcement.”

McCain defended his comments on ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday, saying, “Congressman Flake and I were briefed right just before that press conference by the forest service official that this same situation exits, so frankly, I’m not so sure what all this controversy is about.”

Parraz maintains that the senator made a “serious overstatement,” and capitalized on the state’s tragedy for political gains.

“John McCain had a national stage and he chose to play politics,” said Parraz.  “Not only did he say that there was substantial evidence that documented folks, he then made a request for more money for border security.  So now the fires are about border security.”

The Arizona activist also said McCain has gone through a political makeover over the last two years, edging further and further right in his policies and agendas.

Parraz is a labor activist and has been leading the effort to oust Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce.  Pearce sponsored Arizona’s immigration law and is known for his staunchly conservative policies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


McCain Baffled by Controversy over Illegal Immigrant Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he's "not sure what all this controversy is about" surrounding his claim that illegal immigrants caused some of the wildfires raging across eastern Arizona.

McCain said the issue of possible immigrant involvement was first raised at a press conference over the weekend, and that his response was based on a briefing he received from a Forest Service official.

"[Cochise County, Ariz.,] Sheriff Larry Dever will tell you that the Monument Fire was started when the park, the forest was closed. So anyone who was in there is illegal," McCain told ABC News.

The Forest Service has only said publicly that the wildfires appear to be "human caused" and has not offered any evidence that the suspects may have been illegal immigrants.  

"This is the toughest year in Arizona's history as far as fires are concerned," McCain said. "The fact is that as far back as 2006 the Forest Service testified before Congress, and I quote, 'Large numbers of warming and cooking fires built and abandoned by cross border violators have caused wildfires that have destroyed valuable natural and cultural resources.'"

But McCain's critics say his unsubstantiated claims that there's "substantial evidence" that illegal immigrants are responsible for "some of these fires" only agitates an ongoing political debate.

"The sad thing is that the intention was pretty clear," said Clarissa Martinez with the National Council of La Raza. "It was to demonize immigrants and demonize Latinos."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


McCain's Claim That Illegal Immigrants Started Wildfires Disputed

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- A U.S. Forest Service official said on Sunday there is no evidence that illegal immigrants started some of the wildfires in Arizona, as Sen. John McCain has claimed.

Tom Berglund, spokesman for the federal group managing the Wallow fire that McCain toured on Saturday, said the cause of the fire has been determined as "human," specifically an "escaped campfire," meaning the campfire sparked beyond the confines of the rocks containing it.

Two "subjects of interest" have been spoken to, but as of now, no suspect has been named, Berglund said.  When asked if there is substantial evidence that some fires were caused by illegal immigrants, as McCain said at a news conference Saturday, Berglund said, "Absolutely not, at this level."

"There's no evidence that I'm aware, no evidence that's been public, indicating such a thing," he said.

"We are concerned about, particularly, areas down on the border where there is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally," McCain said Saturday at a press conference, according to CNN.  "The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."

"They have set fires because they want to signal others.  They have set fires to keep warm and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them," McCain said.

McCain offered no evidence to substantiate his claims, however, prompting criticism from Latino civil rights advocates.

The Wallow fire has burned 511,118 acres of land, according to InciWeb, an online database that tracks natural disasters.  On Saturday, it was about 38 percent contained, according to the Arizona Republic, but authorities are concerned about high winds.  The 200 residents of Luna, N.M., located seven miles away from the Arizona border, were evacuated on Saturday.

The Wallow fire is one of five wildfires currently being battled in Arizona, including the Monument fire in southern Arizona, which destroyed dozens of homes last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Authorities Looking at Two Persons of Interest in Arizona Wildfires

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- Authorities are investigating two persons of interest in connection to the Wallow Fire that erupted last month in Arizona, ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix reports.

The news comes as the blaze has been deemed by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest as the largest fire in Arizona's history, having grown to 733 square miles and destroying nearly 500 buildings.

U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Christopher Knopp told KNXV-TV, "What we've pretty much broken it down to is [the cause] looks like it was a campfire.  We've got a couple of people we're talking to on that right now."

No arrests have been made, according to KNXV-TV, and the people in question have not been identified.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wallow Fire: Residents Cautioned About Hazardous Air Quality

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(PINETOP, Ariz.) -- Health officials in New Mexico and Arizona are warning residents that air quality conditions could worsen as enormous wildfires rage on in the two states.

The Wallow Fire has been burning in Arizona for two weeks and has burned nearly 700 square miles, destroyed dozens of homes and displaced thousands of people.

On Sunday authorities gave the all-clear to about 8,000 residents of Eagar and Springerville Arizona, who were previously evacuated, to return home. Other mountain communities like Alpine, Nutrioso and Greer are looking at around five more days before they can go home.

Even with the green light to return to homes, officials caution that there still may be some air quality issues in and around those neighborhoods where people are returning to.

New Mexico residents as far away as Santa Fe and Albuquerque are being cautioned, and more at-risk groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with already-existing respiratory diseases are advised to take extra precautions.

With approximately 3,000 firefighters battling the blaze, containment has been fluctuating between five percent and six percent.

As the fire continues to spread, concern is growing that the fire may endanger two major power lines that bring electricity to West Texas from Arizona.

Lighter winds on Thursday and Friday allowed firefighters to make more progress, but winds picked up again on Saturday and high winds are expected Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fire Crews Brace for High Winds as Arizona Wildfire Rages On

Stockbyte/John Foxx(PINETOP, Ariz.) -- Firefighters were bracing for high winds Saturday as they continue to battle an Arizona wildfire that has spread over more than 600 square miles.

The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona is still keeping nearly 10,000 people out of their homes. The blaze started in late May and is reportedly six percent contained.

Earlier in the week, firefighters got a break from the winds which helped them make good progress on the fire that has already destroyed at least 29 homes and prompted evacuations of thousands of people.

At a community meeting Friday night, Apache County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Brannon Eagar struggled to break the news to evacuees.

"It hurts me to come over here and see my community over here. I want to be able to see you guys over there where we belong," he said.

Hot, heavy winds are expected to return Saturday. Winds in the 30-to-35 mph range could lead to flames spreading even further.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Wildfires Set to Cross State Line Into New Mexico

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- More than 3,000 firefighters managed to contain a small slice of the massive Wallow fire in eastern Arizona but the inferno is threatening to cross the border into New Mexico on Friday.

Workers are using a DC-10 tanker air carrier from the sky and firebreaks on the ground in attempts to stop the blaze before it reaches the tiny town of Luna, New Mexico, seven miles from the Arizona border.

Incident Commander Joe Reinarz said Thursday that for the first time since the fire was sparked on May 29 firefighters were able to keep parts of it contained.  So far, the blaze has scorched over 350,000 acres.

"Saturday we can possibly look at getting the evacuees in Eagar, Springerville, and Southfork back in their homes if the conditions are right over the next day and a half, two days," Reinarz said.

They are attempting to halt a repeat of the blaze that scorched Greer, Arizona on Wednesday.  New numbers released overnight revealed that 22 buildings -- many of them family homes -- in that town were destroyed.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., fears a summer home he owns in the town may have been one of them.  Like their senator, thousands of residents are still in the dark, desperate to learn anything about what has happened to their houses since they were evacuated.

Still in the fire's path are Paso Electric's high-voltage transmission lines, which supply electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.  If these lines go, it may mean blackouts for many part of the region.

Alex Hoon, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told ABC News that this fire is actually creating its own weather, forming a pyrocumulus cloud, or fire cloud, that is dynamically similar to a firestorm.

"The fire is so intense has so much heat that it actually forms its own thunderstorm at the top of the smoke plume," Hoon said.

These storms spur the fire on by creating winds that start new fires by hurling burning debris as far as five miles through the air.  Winds in the region should continue to be mild throughout Friday hours, but will then become strong again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Wallow Fire May Hit Power Lines, Cause Blackouts

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- The massive wildfires raging in Arizona expanded as wind-whipped flames tore through canyons in the eastern mountains, forcing firefighters to retreat from flames that have scorched through the popular vacation town of Greer.

Officials ordered the evacuation of two towns and the flames are threatening power supplies, which may lead to rolling blackouts across parts of Texas and New Mexico.

But with all this dry brush and heavy winds, firefighters -- who have come to Arizona from as far away as New York -- are facing an uphill battle to bring the blaze, which began on May 29, under control.

Aircraft are fighting to hold the line from above, dropping fire retardant to smother flare-ups threatening Paso Electric's high-voltage transmission lines, which supply electricity for hundreds of thousands of people.  If these lines go, it will mean blackouts for many parts of the region.

"There are concerns about power transmission lines and obviously the fire is still moving and active and spotting, so there are concerns," Karen Takai, a spokesman for the fire incident command, said Thursday.

According to utility representatives, the company is prepared to obtain power from other sources and is coordinating with other utilities in case lines are affected.

Near the New Mexico-Arizona state line, in the two small towns of Springerville and Eagar, residents were ordered out on Wednesday.  Combined, the population of the two towns is approximately 8,000.

As of Wednesday, there still hadn't been anyone injured or killed, though 389,000 acres have been scorched and a total of 11 buildings have been destroyed so far.

On Tuesday, the Wallow fire became the second largest wildfire in Arizona state history.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Wildfires Prompt State of Emergency, More Evacuations

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz.) -- A state of emergency has been declared in Arizona for the Wallow Fire, which is still spreading, completely uncontained, in two counties.

Mountain communities in the eastern part of the state are on high alert as the fire continues chewing through tinder-dry terrain, growing by tens of thousands of acres every day.  New evacuations have been ordered for Greer, while residents of several other towns remain on standby to leave their homes as flames head their way.

About 3,000 people have been evacuated since the blaze began over a week ago.

As smoke spreads across the West, more than 2,500 firefighters are desperately trying to get a handle of the fire, which has burned nearly a quarter of a million acres.

Fire officials now say the blaze may have been started by an unattended campfire.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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