May 15, 2012 11:12 AM

Winds in Phoenix to clear smoke from wildfire

CROWN KING, Ariz. (AP) - Smoke from one of several Arizona wildfires that has shrouded the Phoenix area was expected to be cleared by winds Tuesday as firefighters worked to contain another blaze in the northern part of the state that has forced residents from their homes in a historic mining town.

The fire near Crown King began on private land Sunday and burned about 2 square miles by late Monday, with zero containment. The 1,300-acre, human-caused blaze already has destroyed two buildings and one trailer, Prescott National Forest spokeswoman Debbie Maneely said.

The Crown King area remained under a mandatory evacuation order, though authorities said most of the town's 350 residents had chosen to stay in the community of mostly summer homes.

Maneely said most residents likely were staying with family and friends. An American Red Cross shelter in Mayer, which is about 24 miles north, had several evacuees, but they had left.

Meanwhile, a fire south of Payson was 5 percent contained by Monday evening after charring nearly 5 square miles in the Tonto National Forest. Smoke from that fire drifted into Phoenix over the weekend. Authorities have yet to determine a cause.

The fire, and several others burning in Arizona, follow a warning from state land managers that hot temperatures and dry vegetation have created a very high fire risk in some areas.

Crown King is a popular destination for all-terrain vehicles because of its numerous hills and gorges. It is located in the mountains more than 85 miles north of Phoenix.

Expected hot and windy weather could make containment on that fire difficult, Maneely said.

Greg Flores, owner of The Prospector shopping center and president of the Crown King Chamber of Commerce, said he helped a couple and their pug dog flee during a house fire.

It wasn't immediately clear if the house was the one where authorities say the wildfire began.

"The whole house was fully engulfed," Flores said, adding, "There were flames over 100 feet tall when we got up there."

Flores said that the fire had turned a ridge black, destroying much of the forest there.

"It's just horrible," Flores said.

Flores and his wife had to leave their home around 2 a.m. Monday after ash began raining down. They spent the night on the floor in the store and have since been able to return home.

The fire overtook a portion of Crown King Road, making the road to the mountain town inaccessible, a sheriff's office statement said.

Flores said most residents own four-wheel-drive vehicles and many were using them to access back roads due to the main road's closure.

With more than 400 cabins that draw weekend visitors, Flores said, he's glad this fire didn't break out during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.


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