Crews Try to Keep Flames from Reaching AZ Towns

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The mammoth wildfire in eastern Arizona is threatening two more towns as firefighters continue to fight the blaze for the 11th day.

About half of the 4,000 residents of Eagar evacuated Tuesday afternoon as the fire threatened to top the ridges surrounding the town. The rest of the town's residents and those in nearby Springerville fear they will have to leave soon.

"Everybody that's here is suffering from anxiety from this," Apache County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Brannon Eagar told residents who gathered for a public meeting Tuesday night.

"We never thought we'd see this roll over the hill, but it's here and we're going to deal with it the best that we can. Some people are frustrated, and I can understand that, and I'm sorry," he said.

Crews worked overnight to set fire to unburned areas in an effort to starve the blaze in case it burned over the ridge and into the grasslands and stands of trees that border the two towns.

"Right now, it's not moving as fast," fire commander Joe Reinarz said. "This is our chance. When we get it down here in the pinon and juniper and the grasslands, we can make a lot of advances on getting a corral around this thing."

Several other towns in the fire's path have already have been evacuated.

Fueled by 60 mile-an-hour winds, the fire has grown to more than 300,000 acres, an area about twice the size of Chicago. It has already consumed about 500 square miles of pine forest and at least 10 structures. No lives have been lost.

So far, firefighters have been unable to contain the blaze. Thousands of firefighters, including many from several western states and as far away as New York, are already helping.

The cost of fighting the fire has approached $8 million, and forest supervisor Christopher Knopp said it's likely to get more expensive as more resources and personnel are used.

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