KEARNY, Ariz. – A brush fire burned at least two homes Wednesday and forced the evacuation of a trailer park and about 300 residents near a small town about 85 miles southeast of Phoenix.
The fire was estimated at 300 acres by early evening and was burning salt cedar trees in the dry Gila River bed near Kearny, producing large plumes of smoke.
Although there was zero containment and more crews on the way, authorities said it appeared the flames were burning away from the town of 2,000 residents before nightfall and some evacuees could possibly be allowed to go home. About 200 firefighters were on scene, and they encountered temperatures that hit 114 degrees.
There were no immediate reports of any injuries.
Arizona State Forestry officials said the blaze started around 11 a.m. Wednesday and its cause wasn't immediately known.
Fanned by wind gusts of up to 15 mph, the brush fire doubled in size almost every hour and threatened at least 25 structures — reportedly burning to within 40 yards of some homes.
"Right now as you can see this fire is pretty unpredictable. We're kind of at the mercy of what the winds are going to do," said Mark Clark, a spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities said one car and two shed-like structures were destroyed by the fire along with at least two homes.
Of the evacuees, about half are residents of a trailer park that also was evacuated in 2013 when lightning sparked a 500-acre fire in the same river bed.
State Sen. Barbara McGuire said the fire looked "like a war zone" when she drove into the town
"It looked like a volcano eruption. That's the kind of smoke there is," said McGuire, D-Kearny. "I have resided in this community for most of my life — 55 years now — and it is home to me, so I am concerned."
Heavy smoke closed a 4-mile stretch of state Route 177 in both directions.