The communities of Springerville and Eagar are under pre-evacaution orders because of the massive and rapidly spreading Wallow Fire, now the third largest ever recorded in Arizona history.
Officials Monday evening told residents they might have 24 to 48 hours before an evacuation is ordered for those two communities and surrounding areas.
“You might not have that much time,” said Joe Reinarz, incident commander of the team fighting the wildfire.
“We don’t know where this fire is at this point,” he said at a community meeting Monday night. “This fire is moving so fast, with so much smoke."
The fire has burned more than 229,000 acres since starting May 29.
The town of Luna, N.M., is also under a pre-evacuation notice, officials said.
The massive Wallow Fire is burning to the northeast.
Reinarz said crews are already doing structure protection work in the communities of Greer, Sunrise, South Fork, Eagar and Springerville.
The Apache County Sheriff’s Office already issued a mandatory evacuation order for Greer and the White Mountain Apache Tribe has evacuated its nearby Sunrise Resort.
“We have approximately 40 deputies, police officers and Arizona rangers conducting an evacuation as we speak,” said Richard Guinn, a spokesman for the sheriff.
Greer had been under an pre-evacuation notice for days and all of the vacation area’s guests and most of its 120 or so permanent residents had already moved out.
The “trigger point” for evacuating Greer was the same for nearby Sunrise resort, the White Mountain Apache ski area just west of Greer.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe evacuated that area, said Candy Lupe, spokeswoman for Fort Apache Agency of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Lupe did not know how many people were evacuated from the resort, a nearby hotel and camping and RV sites.
“We also have employee housing there. A lot of the employees live there year-round.”
Lupe said evacuees were told to go to Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop-Lakeside, where the Red Cross has set up an evacuation center.
That center held only six guests Monday morning, said shelter director Linda Witbeck.