VERNON, Ariz. – A wildfire in eastern Arizona’s White Mountains grew by about a square mile on Sunday, but the expansion followed successful burnout operations by crews that an official said was “fighting fire with fire.”
The San Juan fire has blackened nearly 9 square miles, up from nearly 8 square miles, but the flames are not spreading, Southwest Area Incident Management Team spokesman Bill Morse said Sunday evening.
All the growth is inside perimeter lines that firefighters have built, he said. The burnout operations have consumed fuels between the perimeter and the main fire on the western edge and may produce more smoke than had been seen.
“This is literally fighting fire with fire,” Morse said, calling the western flank the “problem child.”
The blaze is now 5 percent contained and the other edges of the fire are “very secure,” he said.
Authorities said Sunday that no buildings have burned, and no injuries have been reported.
Fire managers working a 2-week-old blaze on the Navajo Reservation near the Arizona-New Mexico line said Sunday that smoke from pockets of unburned fuel within the interior of that fire will likely continue until the area gets significant rain.
It was the same on the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, where crews have been managing the lightning-sparked Oak fire that has blackened more than 16 square miles since being spotted June 17.
Another blaze caused by lightning in northern New Mexico was putting up smoke Sunday afternoon that could be seen from as far away as Albuquerque. The 200-acre Diego fire started earlier this week. Authorities said no structures were threatened, but structure protection crews have been requested.