(MAYER, Ariz.) — Firefighters in Arizona are battling a growing problem, as high winds overnight caused a handful of wildfires to nearly triple in size.
“The next three days are critical in fire weather, as far as the winds that are coming through,” said incident fire official Karen Takai. “We have a lot of concerns about how the fire is going to move and what is going to happen.”
The so-called Gladiator fire in central Arizona is being considered the most dangerous of the four fires currently burning in the state. It has consumed more than 5,400 acres and has forced the evacuation of the historic mining town of Crown King.
Fire officials told ABC News on Thursday that the fire burning near Crown King appears to be growing away from the tiny town and firefighters have become increasingly confident that they will be able to save it. Crown King is situated southwest of the fire, and the wind is currently blowing north.
But shifting 35-mile per hour winds have made the path of the fire tough to predict, officials said earlier.
“They’re still not out of the woods,” said Michelle Fiddler of the southwest incident management team. “This is still an ongoing fire and conditions change periodically.”
“At this point the fire’s progressed into more remote areas where it’s more challenging to get to,” she said.
“Our strategy all along has been to corral this fire, keep it small, put it out,” Fiddler explained. “Unfortunately the winds have really worked against us and its pretty steep, rugged terrain in there.”
About 400 firefighters are trying to contain the blaze and officials say the fire is unusually dangerous. It’s not just the smoke and heat that have officials concerned; the area is known for rattlesnakes and abandoned mines.
A much larger fire, the so-called Sunflower fire, has burned approximately 12,500 acres, but is burning in a much more remote location. That fire is 10 percent contained.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire