Two wildfires burning in eastern Arizona topped 30,000 acres each over the weekend, prompting road closures and mandatory evacuations amid blazing temperatures and a drought that stretches across much of the western United States.
The Mescal Fire, burning in the Mescal Mountains east of Phoenix, exploded from nearly 26,000 acres on Saturday night to more than 38,000 on Sunday as temperatures soared to 100 degrees, said David Shell, a public information officer with the team managing the fire.
The blaze was 2 percent contained, he said, adding that it was wind-driven and could very quickly change direction.
Residents in several small communities to the south, north and east of the fire were under mandatory evacuation orders, NBC affiliate KPNX reported. The cause of the fire, which started June 1 on Apache tribal land, remains under investigation.
As of Sunday afternoon, a second blaze, the Telegraph Fire, had burned through more than 34,000 acres of shrub and grassland west of the Mescal Fire.
Top of the World, a community of a few hundred, was evacuated Sunday morning, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said. The fire started Friday and is also under investigation.
The fires closed several roads, including U.S. Route 60, a major thoroughfare.
The blazes comes as western states prepare for a potentially historic wildfire season exacerbated by climate change, a “megadrought” and decades of forest management practices.