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Flames tear through Arizona, topping US in forest fires

PHOENIX – Nearly 30 forest fires swept through the dry and windy Arizona on Monday, drawing crews from the West of the United States to the state with the most brands of fires in the nation.

Thousands of firefighters were battling 28 fires in the state, many of them ignited by lightning or people, light winds and dry vegetation fueled the flames, said Tiffany Davila, spokeswoman for the state forestry department. No one is hurt, and an empty house is destroyed.

In some southern Arizona residents were allowed to return home Monday after the flight last week from a wildfire in the community of the Dragoon that burned a vacant house. Evacuation orders were in place at least 30 houses.

Heather Floyd, who lives in Dragoon, said a government official came to her home with a warning to evacuate Wednesday. Floyd decided to spend the night at her daughter’s home in a nearby town, but her husband remained behind.

When she left, she took multiple suitcases — one with five days worth of clothes, and a other with photo albums and picture frames she grabbed from the walls.

“It’s weird,” Floyd said. “What you need to bring? It is 10:30 in the night, you’re not really thinking.”

The fire came within a half meter of her house, but she went back the next morning and they have remained ever since.

Davila estimates at least 80 square miles (207 square kilometers) in the entire country to be on fire. She said crews from seven other countries are working to control the fire.

Officials closed a section of highway in northern Arizona last week because of the smoke from a mountain of fire, limited visibility. The State Route 180 for approximately 10 miles north of Flagstaff will remain closed at least until Sunday, when the state Department of Transportation will re-evaluate.

Arizona has seen 858 fires so far this year that charred 205 square miles (530.95 square kilometers).

Dry lightning, or lighting without rain, led to a number of the larger fires burning now. It is more common in the summer months in the run-up to the state of the monsoon, said Hector Vasquez, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. Fire danger decreases as more moisture moves in and rain starts with lightning.

The National meteorological Service warned residents in the east and the north of Arizona, that there is a lot of wind and low humidity may cause fire to spread easier.

State forestry officials predicted two months ago that southern Arizona would have a higher risk of fire than the northern, forested parts of the state, because the winter rain and snow increased the amount of vegetation that fuels fires in the subsequent months after it dries out.

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the number of fires referred to in 2016 was for the whole year, but it was a year-to-date figure.

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