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More evacuated as winds fuel Arizona's Pipeline Fire

The blaze was reported Sunday morning and was more than 5,000 acres Monday. More than 2,000 households were told to leave, and high winds pushed the blaze northeast.

More evacuations were ordered Monday due to a wildfire in Arizona north of Flagstaff that has so far burned an estimated 5,000 acres, officials said.

In addition to the Pipeline Fire that erupted Sunday morning, two additional fires — the Haywire Fire and Double Fire — were reported about six miles ahead, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The Pipeline Fire is the largest of the three burning in the Coconino National Forest. It began around 10:15 a.m. Sunday and by Monday evening it was estimated to be around 5,000 acres, the Forest Service said.

A 57-year-old man was arrested Sunday on natural resource violations in connection with the Pipeline Fire, the forest service said. But his name was not released, and the agency said the cause of the Pipeline Fire remains under investigation.

One structure has been confirmed to have burned, officials said. More than 2,000 households have been told to evacuate, Coconino County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bret Axlund said at a briefing Monday afternoon.

It was just around two months ago that the so-called Tunnel Fire broke out in the same area, burning more than 19,000 acres.

“I know coming off of the Tunnel Fire and the impacts of that, this is unwelcome,” wildfire Incident Commander Aaron Graeser said. “Please rest assured there are lots of men and women standing guard tonight.”

Image:A wildfire burns on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., on June 12, 2022.
A wildfire burns on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, on June 12, 2022.Felicia Fonseca / AP

The two other fires were reported east of the Pipeline Fire. The Haywire and Double fires are together around 2,000 acres and will most likely merge, the Forest Service said.

They were probably caused by lighting strikes from several days ago, Graeser said.

High winds helped push the Pipeline Fire to the northeast Monday, and it prevented aircraft from being used to help battle the blaze, Graeser said.

Critical fire weather was forecast for large parts of the Southwest Monday, and the Flagstaff area was under “red flag” warnings, according to the National Weather Service.

The exact size of the Pipeline Fire was not known because infrared flights have not been possible, but it is estimated to be at around 5,000 acres.

On Sunday the fire had been estimated at around 1,500 acres. The Pipeline Fire was zero percent contained Monday evening.

Image: A person watches as smoke rises above neighborhoods on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., on  June 12, 2022.
A person watches as smoke rises above neighborhoods on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, on June 12, 2022.Felicia Fonseca / AP

In Southern California, a wildfire burning in the Angeles National Forest and on private property near Wrightwood had burned almost 1,000 acres by Monday evening, fire officials there said.

The Sheep Fire, which was reported in San Bernardino County at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, prompted the evacuation of around 300 people, officials said. No structures have been reported burned.

But as in Arizona, high winds posed a challenge for firefighters, the Forest Service said. The Sheep Fire was 18 percent contained Monday evening.

In New Mexico, the largest wildfire in recorded state history, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, was 70 percent contained Monday, according to federal officials. It has burned more than 320,000 acres.

“Several hundred” homes are estimated to have been destroyed by the fire, the governor’s office said last week.

The Hermits Peak Fire began during a prescribed burn, which are designed to reduce wildfire risks, after winds caused spot fires, the Forest Service has said.

The Calf Canyon Fire nearby was caused by a “pile burn holdover” from January, the agency has said. The fire stayed dormant for months before reemerging in April, it said.