Arizona wildfires destroy homes, threaten small cityArizona wildfires destroy homes, threaten small city

By Foster Klug The Associated Press By Foster Klug, The Associated Press
Monday June 24, 2002

SHOW LOW, Ariz. – Two mammoth wildfires were burning together Sunday and were expected to push flames unchecked into this mountain city. Firefighters prepared to defend homes where they could. 

“This fire is going to hit Show Low,” said Larry Humphrey, the incident fire commander. “How hard and how quickly depends on Mother Nature.” 

The fires were about 1 1/2 miles apart and would form a 50-mile-long line of flame advancing through paper-dry forest in eastern Arizona, said fire spokesman Jim Paxon. 

“This is going to be a tough day,” Paxon said. “We’re going to get beat up pretty hard.” 

About 293,000 acres — 457 square miles — have burned since Tuesday, he said. As many as 25,000 people have fled homes from more than half a dozen towns. 

At least 185 homes have been destroyed, Paxon said. Of those, 115 burned in towns just west of Show Low. Seventy were in Heber-Overgaard, a community 35 miles west of Show Low that was overrun Saturday by the other fire. 

Paxon said firefighters were able to save hundreds of homes. 

Show Low’s 7,700 residents were ordered out late Saturday after the flames jumped a fire line crews were building about eight miles west of town, and the 3,500 residents of neighboring Pinetop-Lakeside followed early Sunday.