Thousands Evacuated Due To Arizona Wildfire; Could Threaten EPE Power Supply

Eastern Arizona – Authorities have ordered about 2,000 residents of the eastern Arizona town of Eagar to evacuate as a raging forest fire approaches. In addition to smoke in the air in New Mexico, El Paso Electric says the fire is dangerously close to transmission lines, which could force blackouts in our region in a matter of days.

The order came late Tuesday afternoon after a day in which residents prepared to leave. Firefighters spent the day working feverously to prepare a defense for Eagar and neighboring Springerville.

The Apache County Sheriff's Office issued the order for areas south of highway 260 and east of Greer. The highway will be closed after the evacuation is complete.

Eagar has about 4,000 residents and the nearby town of Springerville has another 2,000. In all, about 7,000 people were ordered to prepare for evacuation in recent days.

The blaze has already burned 486 square miles of ponderosa pine forest since it started on May 29. Several tiny resort towns were evacuated earlier.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.