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Two Arizona wildfires force evacuations, close roads

The Mescal Fire and the Telegraph Fire erupted amid a worsening drought.
IMage: The Telegraph Fire as seen from Highway 177 facing south, Ariz.
The Telegraph Fire as seen from Highway 177 facing south, Ariz., on June 6, 2021.U.S. Forest Service

Two wildfires burning in eastern Arizona topped 30,000 acres each over the weekend, prompting road closures and mandatory evacuations amid blazing temperatures and a drought that stretches across much of the West.

The Mescal Fire, burning in the Mescal Mountains east of Phoenix, exploded from nearly 26,000 acres Saturday night to more than 38,000 on Sunday as temperatures soared to 100 degrees, said David Shell, a public information officer with the team managing the fire.

The blaze was 2 percent contained, he said, adding that it was wind-driven and could change direction very quickly.

Residents in several small communities south, north and east of the fire were under mandatory evacuation orders, NBC affiliate KPNX of Phoenix reported. The cause of the fire, which started Tuesday on Apache tribal land, remains under investigation.

As of Sunday afternoon, a second blaze, the Telegraph Fire, had burned through more than 34,000 acres of shrub and grassland west of the Mescal Fire.

Top of the World, a community of a few hundred people , was evacuated Sunday morning, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office said. The fire, which started Friday, is also under investigation.

The fires closed several roads, including U.S. Route 60, a major thoroughfare.

Western states are preparing for a potentially historic wildfire season aggravated by climate change, a "megadrought" and decades of forest management practices.