Four massive wildfires burning in central Arizona have scorched thousands of acres, leaving a nasty cloud of smoke hanging over much of the state and surrounding area.
The Gladiator Fire, burning north of the town of Crown King, has charred 16,222 acres, and has destroyed a number of buildings in the area. The fire, the largest of the four, is currently thirty percent contained. Nestled deep in the Bradshaw Mountains, much of Crown King has faced evacuation. Many residents have temporarily relocated to nearby Prescott. The fire is believed to have been started by a house fire.
The Sunflower Fire northeast of Phoenix has already consumed approximately 16,175 acres, making it the second largest fire currently burning in the state. Smoke from the Sunflower Fire has blanketed much of the state, including the Phoenix area, causing health concerns for many in the valley. The fire is currently 43 percent contained.
Other fires burning in the state include the Bull Fire, near the Canyon Creek Fish Hatchery, which has burned just over two thousand acres, and the Elwood Fire, which has claimed 1,600 acres. The Bull Fire and the Elwood Fire are both believed to be nearly contained at this time.
Yesterday, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning, expected to bring "widespread hazardous fire conditions" to much of the state. The Red Flag warning extends from 11 a.m. Thursday until 8 p.m. Friday.
Wildfires are a threat to the dry desert areas of Arizona, and inevitably, thousands of acres burn every year. The 2012 season is off to a precarious start, with the threat of additional fires remaining high for several months to come.