California wildfire scorches practically 1,000 acres, prompting evacuations

A fast-spreading wildfire in California’s Angeles National Forest has grown to nearly 1,000 acres in just over a day, causing road closures and the evacuation of much of a community about 30 miles northwest of San Bernardino.

The blaze, named Sheep Fire, is one of more than 30 wildfires active Monday that have burned about a million acres in five states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The fires, combined with a heatwave in the southwest, were fueled by persistently dry and windy conditions.

The fires have prompted mandatory evacuations in Arizona and southern California. The largest fires were in New Mexico, where they threatened buildings and spread across 680,000 acres in the state’s national forests, the Fire Center said Monday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which said the fire was “particularly challenging due to the dense vegetation, steep terrain, and strong and erratic winds.”

As of Monday afternoon, evacuation orders remained in place for much of Wrightwood, a community of 4,500 people, said Mara Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office. Wrightwood, at an elevation of 6,000 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains, is a mountain resort 15 miles from the freeway, according to its website.

As of Monday, more than three million people in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were on red flag warnings indicating an increased risk of fire.

In northern Arizona, thick smoke could be seen Monday from US 89, which was closed north of Flagstaff, the Arizona Department of Transportation said. Two large wildfires, the Pipeline and Haywire fires, prompted multiple evacuations and prompted warnings of possible additional evacuation orders.

The pipeline fire, which was first reported just six miles north of Flagstaff Sunday morning, had grown to about 5,000 acres by late Monday night, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The US Forest Service said Sunday it had arrested a 57-year-old man in connection with the pipeline fire and charged him with unspecified violations of natural resources. In a press release, the service did not identify the man and said it would not discuss details of the investigation.

Early Monday morning, the Haywire fire started northeast of the pipeline fire, officials in Coconino County, Arizona said. Within six hours it had already burned through 1,600 acres. The Flagstaff Weather Service said Monday brought critical fire weather conditions to the area. Lighter winds should return by mid-week, with showers and thunderstorms possible through Friday.

Dangerous heat was expected to stretch from the Midwest to the Southeast by midweek. More than 110 million people in the southern and central United States were under heat warnings or advisories as of early Tuesday morning, according to the Weather Service.

Mike Ives contributed reporting.

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