SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several wildfires were burning Wednesday in Utah amid hot, dry and windy conditions and with most of the state mired in extreme drought.
The largest blaze is one that started Tuesday in central Utah near the town of Price that was about 5.4 square miles (14 square kilometers) as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Utah fire information website run by state and federal agencies.
A fire in northern Utah near East Canyon State Park had grown to about 1.3 square miles (3.4 square kilometers) and forced the evacuation of two families. It was started Tuesday morning when a track hoe hit a rock, officials said.
Hot and windy conditions were forecast for much of the state Wednesday.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Tuesday this is the state’s worst drought in decades and announced the state had issued a fireworks bans for all state lands and unincorporated private lands to reduce the risk of wildfires.
To the south, a wildfire in Arizona had neighboring New Mexico breathing in smoke. The yellow haze stretched up the Rio Grande Valley and obscured views of the mountain ranges surrounding Albuquerque.
Firefighters in Superior, Arizona, a former mining town about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Phoenix, however, made significant progress overnight on the so-called Telegraph Fire. They contained 21% of the fire’s perimeter, up from zero the night before, officials said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an emergency declaration for that fire and another several miles east. The declaration will make up to $400,000 available for response efforts.
More than 750 firefighters conducted burnout operations through the night. Crews overseen by a top-tier management team focused on establishing a fire break along U.S. 60 and in the Pinal Mountains.
The blaze has burned more than 125 square miles (324 square kilometers) in Pinal and Gila counties. It was first reported Friday and is believed to be human-caused.
Thousands of residents have been stuck in various stages of the evacuation process. At least 2,500 homes in Gila County have been evacuated, with twice that number set to go with bags packed, according to county emergency officials. Hundreds more also were cleared from their homes in a community in Pinal County.
A second home near Globe-Miami that belonged to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers was among those destroyed.
The fire also forced closures on most roads leading out of town. But U.S. 70 reopened Wednesday.
Besides enduring smoke from Arizona fires, New Mexico is dealing with its own blazes, including one that was sparked by lightning three weeks ago in the Gila National Forest in the western part of the state. It has charred more than 71 square miles (184 square kilometers) and has forced the closure of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and much of the surrounding wilderness.