Evacuated Ariz. Residents Play Wildfire Waiting Game

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Arizona firefighters are facing gusty winds and lightening strikes in a fierce battle to contain one of the state's worst wildfires.

The blaze has burned an estimated 233,522 acres since it started more than a week ago.

Sheriff's deputies have also evacuated several communities. Massive manpower of about 2,300 firefighters are on the job.

"We're very hopeful that they can get the fire under control," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said.

Brewer is keeping a watchful eye on the progress after a weekend briefing and a helicopter tour of the growing blaze.

"It was absolutely frightening. It was unbelievable," Brewer said. "The expansion of the smoke is what we saw first. The white smoke. Then it was that black smoke."

Thick, blinding smoke can be seen from space. The "Wallow fire" began May 29 and raced across more than 300 square miles. The blaze has now spread throughout eastern Arizona along the border with New Mexico.

The Walker family moved quickly, packing what they could before flames reached their home in Nutrioso.

"Me, my wife, and our family built that home with our hands and it was hard to leave it," homeowner Jesse Walker said with tears in his eyes.

It's an emotional waiting game for the Walkers and others from the Nutrioso mountain community. They have no idea if their homes will be spared.

Residents like Leighayn Green are studying the latest fire map to determine if their houses are still standing.

At a weekend meeting about the fires, crews announced the Wallow fire burned at least one structure in Nutrioso, but couldn't give specifics.

"I don't know what to think," resident Mary Lou Whitby said.

Firefighters thought they had the homes well protected until the flames jumped containment lines Sunday.

Still, residents say they have more than they can lose.

"We are all safe. I have got my husband and my daughter," Green said. "We are safe. We were able to get our photos out and we are family. We are safe."

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CBN News
Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.