Arizona's 'monster' wildfire: How long will it burn?

The second largest wildfire in Arizona's history is raging through the state, and crews only have 5 percent of it contained

An officer walks through a field as smoke billows over Arizona's White Mountains: An eastern Arizona wildfire has been blazing out of control for nearly two weeks.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Marcio J. Sanchez/Pool)

What started as an innocent campfire has set a huge portion of eastern Arizona ablaze, and caused the evacuation of roughly 10,000 residents so far. While firefighters work to extinguish what could become the worst fire ever recorded in Arizona, they concede that the situation is largely "in nature's hands." Here, a guide to the "monster" inferno raging in the Grand Canyon State:

Just how bad is the fire?

Since May 29, the Wallow Fire has charred 600 square miles of land and destroyed roughly 30 homes. As the blaze creeps toward the New Mexico border, more than 5,000 structures remain threatened. Luckily, no one has been killed, but three injuries have been reported. The fire also threatens major power lines that, if hit, could cause blackouts up to 200 miles away. The fire has already become "the second-largest ever recorded in Arizona," according to NPR, and only 5 percent of the blaze is contained.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Why is it so hard to control?

Extremely dry weather through late winter and spring left the land parched and vulnerable. That, coupled with high winds and brush buildup from overgrown ponderosa pine trees, makes for a fiery feast that sends embers flying. "The fire is so intense, has so much heat, that it actually forms its own thunderstorm at the top of the smoke plume," Alex Hoon, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told ABC News. The resulting winds only create new fires.

Is there any hope the blaze will die down soon?

"It's all in nature's hand," local fire chief Jeff Piechura told TIME. The wind died down on Thursday and Friday but is expected to pick up again on Saturday, giving crews only a brief window of time to fight the blaze. Fire crews are trying to burn up trees ahead of the fire in an attempt to choke it out, and helicopters are dropping water and fire retardant on the flames. When the wind dies down, and the fire runs out of dense fuel to burn, there might be improvement. Until then, Piechura says, "the fire's going to keep on running."

Sources: ABC News, TIME, NPR, Daily Mail, Associated Press

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.