The Wallow Fire in Arizona has become the largest wildfire in the state's history, surpassing the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire, according to officials with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
The amount of land burned by the fire grew to about 733 square miles, forest officials reported Tuesday. The Rodeo fire covered 732 square miles.
The blaze was about 18% contained, fire officials said Tuesday, nearly double the containment figure reported the day before, when officials reported that the northward advance of the fire had been stopped.
Meanwhile, another fire broke out Monday in southern New Mexico at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, officials said. Hundreds of visitors were evacuated as crews tackled the 3,000-acre wildfire inside the park.
Calmer winds were helping firefighters get the upper hand on the Wallow Fire, which has been burning since late May, said Jerome MacDonald, the operations chief for the Southwest Incident Management team.
In the town of Greer, part of which was burned by the fire, work was under way to make it safe for people to return, said the town's fire chief, Mark Wade.
"Greer is not as bad as a lot of people are making it sound," he said. But he warned that there are dangerous obstacles that must be cleared and utilities to be restored before residents can be allowed back in.
Residents were already moving back to the towns of Springerville, Eagar and South Fork after authorities lifted evacuation orders on Sunday.FULL STORY