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The area around Arizona’s wildfires is so dry, firefighters’ heavy equipment is causing small flareups

Andrew Cuomo

Two massive wildfires in eastern Arizona continued to spread Wednesday, leading Gov. Doug Ducey to issue two emergency declarations to further fund response efforts.

The area around the Telegraph Fire and Mescal Fire, both burning nearly 100 miles east of Phoenix, was so dry that officials had said firefighters trying to tame the blaze have started fires sparked by their own equipment.

As of Wednesday night, the Telegraph Fire has burned nearly 85,000 acres and the Mescal Fire has scorched more than 70,000 acres, according to the Interagency Incident Information Center.

“Even our own fire equipment is starting fires,” said Dean McAlister, a fire information officer. “The blades and the tracks of the (heavy equipment) sparking against the fuels have actually created some fires along the fire line.”

McAlister added that crews have been able to put out those smaller fires as they happen, but they are asking people to keep their own vehicles away from the area to avoid their own accidental ignition.

Officials said they’ve been able to keep the Telegraph Fire from getting closer to the community of Superior.

“A lot of effort’s going on up here right now,” Operations Section Chief Todd Abel said during a community briefing Wednesday.

The Telegraph Fire was 34% contained as of Wednesday night, according to according to the information center. The nearby Mescal wildfire was 23% contained.

Ducey’s declaration made $400,000 in federal funds available to assist local efforts, the Republican governor said in a statement.

“Arizonans must take the threat of wildfires seriously and follow all safety precautions during these dry months, including following evacuation orders,” Ducey said.

McAlister had expressed optimism Tuesday to increase containment despite the dry conditions

“Things are looking fairly good for the situation we’ve got with the weather we’ve got,” McAlister said.

The Telegraph Fire, which was detected by fire officials on Friday afternoon, has burned five structures so far, officials said Tuesday in a Facebook post.

“Fire managers had a busy day on the fire involving fire suppression and removal of members of the public that went into the fire closure area” officials said in the post.

Evacuations remain in place and residents are advised to monitor the Gila County Health and Emergency Management Facebook page for any changes to evacuation orders, officials said.

Authorities believe the fire was started by a person but are still investigating the cause. No deaths or injuries have been reported in either fire.

While the Mescal Fire has grown since Monday, authorities told some residents on the San Carlos Apache Reservation they could return home.

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