By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) – A major brush fire burned on Wednesday in central Arizona forcing roughly 250 residents to evacuate a small town near the site where 19 firefighters died in another blaze roughly three years ago, authorities said.
Residents were forced from their homes on the east and west side of Yarnell by the so-called Tenderfoot Fire that broke out about 3:15 p.m. local time, said Dwight D’Evelyn, spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.
The fire, consuming about 600 acres, threatened an undetermined number of structures in the area and has claimed three buildings, D’Evelyn said. No injuries have been reported.
A shelter was set up for evacuees at a local college in nearby Prescott, Arizona, on Wednesday night, officials said.
“The fire has been very active and was moving quite rapidly at some points,” said Dolores Garcia, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. “This is a big deal.”
About 100 firefighters battled the blaze from the ground and in the air and crews were expected to continue the effort throughout the night on Wednesday.
Crews were reporting “excellent progress,” Garcia said.
There was no immediate cause for Wednesday’s blaze that erupted east of the fatal 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.
Nineteen members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots died in the lightning-caused, wind-whipped blaze that roared across drought-parched land northeast of Phoenix in June 2013.
The Hotshot crew died two days after the fire’s start, trapped by a wall of flames as they moved in a box canyon and were overcome by the fast-moving blaze. Hotshot Brendan McDonough was the lone survivor. It was the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years.
Scores of homes also were claimed by the 8,400-acre blaze that sparked a nationwide outpouring of sympathy.
(Reporting By David Schwartz in Phoenix)