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Hundreds evacuated as wildfire rages in southern Arizona

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Official: Campfire caused AZ wildfire
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The raging Wallow fire is 33% contained
  • 1,700 homes are evacuated in southern Arizona in another fire
  • Monument fire in southern Arizona is 17% contained
  • The Wallow fire is Arizona's biggest but not the most destructive

Read more about the Arizona wildfires at CNN affiliate KNXV.

(CNN) -- A growing blaze fueled by strong winds prompted the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of people in southern Arizona on Thursday, authorities said.

Wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour were reported in the area, and people in 1,700 of approximately 3,230 homes were ordered out.

The Monument fire, which has scorched 40 homes in southern Arizona, roared in the Huachuca Mountains near the Mexican border and just south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The 9,300-acre blaze is only 17% contained.

Portions of Highway 92 were closed on the edge of the Coronado National Memorial/Coronado National Forest, said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Office.

"We had a situation where a family said they were staying behind," Capas told CNN. "We got a teenage daughter who later called us from that home and said she didn't want to be there so our officers went over there and got her out."

Hundreds of people in other areas were evacuated, she said.

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The sheriff's office urged residents to be patient.

"Public safety officials are doing everything possible to get people to safety in a timely and professional manner, so the cooperation of the public is critical," it said.

Someone had been detained for attempting to ram a marked patrol unit doing road closures, the office said in a statement.

Red-flag warnings indicated that the region was at the mercy of heat, wind and low humidity.

"This whole part of the country is in extreme drought," said Dale Thompson, a spokesman for fire crews. "Grass will take off like gasoline."

Meanwhile, crews battled the massive Wallow fire in eastern Arizona on several fronts Thursday as they dealt with strong winds and low relative humidity.

The raging blaze started last month in eastern Arizona, devouring hundreds of thousands of acres before spilling into New Mexico. It has grown into the largest fire ever in Arizona, according to fire officials.

It had burned 478,016 acres and was 33% contained as of Thursday evening, officials said. Crews battled a spot fire on the south side of the city of Eagar.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the area Friday, warning of strong and gusty winds in the afternoon and evening. Humidity levels were at 5% to 12%, it said.

The Wallow fire -- centered in a sparsely populated national forest -- is the largest but not the state's most destructive in terms of property. It has destroyed 32 homes and 36 outbuildings, including sheds and barns, compared with the 468,000-acre Rodeo-Chediski fire, which destroyed 465 homes.

On Thursday, firefighters focused on hazard tree removal, structure protection, improving containment lines and conducting mop-up activities, officials said.

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CNN's Samuel Gardner III, Dave Alsup and Phil Gast contributed to this report.

 
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