Arizona fire grows to 18000 acres, forces evacuations

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Homes there have been evacuated since June 17 since authorities said the fire was started by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds on private land.

The blaze that began Saturday is in the area where 19 elite firefighters died four years ago battling another wildfire.

Yavapai County spokesman David McAtee says about 3,400 people in the area have been affected by the fire and roughly 3,000 structures in the evacuated areas were at risk.

Low humidity, temperatures hovering around 90 Fahrenheit and 35 miles per hour (55 kph) wind gusts are in the forecast through the weekend and may "contribute to extreme fire behavior", the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

Ducey announced he would be traveling to Yavapai County on Thursday to meet with officials, receive a full briefing and visit with people impacted by the fire.

Jennifer Johnson of Phoenix was driving into Prescott Valley on Tuesday for a meeting and noticed smoke on the way in.

Wednesday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency and directed 200,000 US dollars in emergency funds to fire suppression efforts and reimbursements for emergency response and recovery costs.

Smoke billows from the Goodwin Fire near Mayer
Smoke billows from the Goodwin Fire near Mayer

"They need to heed any warnings related to fireworks regarding the area that they're allowed to be lit because we frankly don't need any more fires, especially human-caused fires", he said.

In California, a wildfire destroyed the home of "Big Bang Theory" star Johnny Galecki on a ranch in the San Luis Obispo area.

Officials said strong winds helped fuel the fire burning mostly through chaparral and heavy grass that have been untouched for almost 40 years.

The blaze is burning in thick chaparral that has not seen a fire in more than 40 years. "So please understand that while we send firefighters into hard places, there are places we will not go". According to Denver meteorologist Ed Greene, "fire danger is very high with gusty winds and low humidity". Dewey-Humboldt has about 4,000 residents. The community is reminded that "if you fly, we can't fly".

The Brian Head Fire in southern Utah has burned more 54,000 acres, an area bigger than the city of Washington, said CNN senior meteorologist Dave Hennen.

On California's Central Coast, evacuation orders remain in place for sparsely populated rural areas of San Luis Obispo County east of the town of Santa Margarita due to a almost 2-square-mile (5 sq. kilometer) fire.

AP writers Clarice Silber and Bob Christie contributed from Phoenix.

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