- NASA / MODIS (June 7, 2011)
Arizona authorities have evacuated the mountain resort towns of Greer and Sunrise ahead of a colossal conflagration known as the Wallow Fire that is eating up the eastern side of the state. Caused by humans, the fire is sprawling over 233,552 acres and is zero percent contained; more than 2,500 workers (including 31 crack “hotshot crews”) are struggling to get a grasp on it. As clouds of smoke blanket the state, officials in neighboring New Mexico are warning residents to stay indoors with windows shut and “swamp coolers” turned off – really, the Southwest has all kinds of interesting terminology, this one denoting a kind of A/C unit that apparently used to smell like algae.
Conditions across Arizona and surrounding states are perfect for the spread of wildfires. It's dry and hot, and with a Pacific low-pressure area passing nearby the winds are strong and sustained. The National Weather Service has put much of the region under a red flag warning for the possibility of “rapid and erratic fire growth.” However, that already is happening, with not only the Wallow fire consuming dry tinder and buildings but the Murphy and Horseshoe 2 fires burning a combined 155,000 acres in the Coronado National Forest. The air is so thick with smoke and ash that visibility is reduced to below 3 miles in many places. The smoke plumes are clearly visible from space, as shown in the above image taken today by NASA's Aqua satellite. (Hi-res.) The small map in the corner shows the location of other ongoing fires.
For a comprehensive list of what parts of America are smoldering (including Alaska, Florida and Georgia), InciWeb is a good place to start.