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Firefighters battle Arizona blaze

A wildfire that quickly grew to 3,000 acres forced the evacuation Sunday of about 400 homes and businesses near Sedona, Ariz.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A wildfire that quickly grew to 3,000 acres forced the evacuation Sunday of about 400 homes and businesses in an unincorporated area in Oak Creek Canyon, officials said.

Crews manning fire engines spread out throughout the area to defend the homes, fire officials said. There were no reports late Sunday of any homes being damaged or destroyed but the potential existed for that.

“It’s going to be quite a fight not to lose them,” said Kristy Bryner, a fire information officer. “This is very active fire behavior.”

The fire burned Sunday on a mesa just above Oak Creek Canyon, more than 90 miles north of Phoenix. Crews were concerned that downslope winds, which can be common at night, could push the fire into the canyon, said Raquel Romero, another fire spokeswoman. She classified the threat to the homes as “very serious.”

Brenda Grey, a spokeswoman for Coconino County, said Oak Creek Canyon contains a mix of homes, including upscale houses and mobile home parks. She said it also contains hotels, resorts and stores that are scattered throughout the canyon.

The fast-moving fire ignited Sunday afternoon in a wooded area and quickly led to the evacuations of about 180 homes in five Sedona subdivisions and Oak Creek Canyon, a popular scenic area in Coconino County between Sedona and Flagstaff. The fire’s cause was unknown, although authorities said there was no lightning Sunday.

It was unclear how many people the evacuations included. Smoke from the fire was visible 30 miles away in Flagstaff, Romero said.

Four airplanes and three helicopters dumped retardant and water on the fire. Ninety people were fighting the blaze at last count, although officials said the number has grown significantly.

Evacuees were sent to a Sedona elementary school and another site at Northern Arizona University.

Melissa Wenzel, a spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Red Cross, said about 50 people checked in with the Sedona shelter Sunday night but only about five planned to stay. Only about two people checked in at the Flagstaff shelter Sunday.