US & Canada

Arizona firefighters 'making gains' on Wallow fire

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Media captionEvacuee Robi Robidoux: "I'm worried about being made homeless"

Firefighters in the US state of Arizona have begun slowly to wrest control of a huge wildfire that has scorched an area bigger than Los Angeles.

The Wallow fire in eastern Arizona has now raged for 13 days, and is the second-largest in the state's history.

Firefighters have lit controlled burns to diminish the fuel available to the wildfire, and a tanker aircraft has dropped retardant on the flames.

But the 603-sq-mile (1,562-sq-km) blaze was only 5% contained late on Thursday.

'No serious injuries'

Twenty-two houses in the eastern Arizona town of Greer were confirmed destroyed and five damaged.

Image caption The fire has forced thousands of people to evacuate towns in eastern Arizona

Over the border in the state of New Mexico residents of the town of Luna were on alert.

Winds have been moving the flames five to eight miles per day since it started more than a week ago, possibly caused by an unattended campfire.

Smoke rising from the flames had reached right across the country on Tuesday, visible six states to the east, and cancelled flights hundreds of miles away.

About 2,500 firefighters have fought the blaze, some coming in from as far away as New York.

Their efforts have been hampered by winds of about 30mph (50km/h), with gusts above 60mph (100km/h), but on Thursday and Friday conditions appeared to ease.

Officials have said evacuated residents of the towns Springerville and Eagar might be able to return home as early as Saturday morning.

The Wallow fire is the second largest on record in Arizona - a blaze in 2002 burnt through 732 sq miles in the centre of the state.

As well as Arizona, smoke is said to be visible in New Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado - where some municipal health departments have issued air-quality warnings.

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