Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Winds spark fire-condition warnings for southern Arizona

With steady winds of 25 to 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph expected Thursday, the National Weather Service warned of critical fire weather conditions for all of southern Arizona.

The Red Flag Warning issued at 11 a.m. will be in effect until 7 p.m., NWS said.

The news does not bode well for firefighters battling blazes in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties.

The Cochise County fire, near Sunizona had burned through one home and forced 20 families to evacuate by Thursday morning. Two air tankers and 65 firefighters were working that 2,500-acre blaze Thursday.

In Santa Cruz County, a fire that broke out Wednesday near Pena Blanca Lake west of Nogales had burned about 350 acres. Seven engines and one helicopter were expected to be fighting that blaze, according to an update released Wednesday evening by Coronado National Forest.

Tucson Fire Department, which battles more than 1,000 grass fires annually, is ready for the extreme conditions, said spokeswoman Capt. Tricia Tracy. “We have wildland firefighting gear on all of our trucks.”

In addition, the department has two “brush trucks” – one posted at each end of town – and a 2,500-gallon tender truck to get water to areas that are out of reach of hydrants, she said.

Tracy warned homeowners to keep brush cleared within 30 feet of their homes and to keep tall grass trimmed.

“Especially with these winds, the fire can spread very fast,” she said.

The National Weather Service forecast includes diminishing winds Thursday evening with warm, dry weather continuing through the weekend.

Temperatures are expected to cool to the mid 60s Friday, though hot, dry weather should return Saturday and Sunday with highs in the upper 70s and low 80s, according to NWS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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