Wildfires Blazing Under Extreme Heat Out West

WILLCOX,  Ariz. (CNN) — A series of wildfires is blazing across the Southwest as the chance of rain remains low amid a deadly heatwave.

Eighteen large fires are burning in the region, including six in Arizona, three in Utah, three in California, three in New Mexico, and  two in Nevada. The two biggest wildfires are in southern Arizona and Utah.

Wildfires already have caused far more destruction than usual in the first half of 2017, meteorologist Haley Brink of the CNN Weather Center said. Almost 1 million more acres had burned by Thursday (June 22), compared with the 10-year average through June 22.

800 battle Arizona wildfire
The Frye Fire in southern Arizona covered nearly 30,000 acres as of Saturday (June 24) afternoon and was 29% contained, the forest service at Coronado National Forest said.

More than 800 personnel are battling the fire, which started June 7. The Frye Fire is about 70 miles northeast of Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona.

Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency Friday (June 23) in Arizona to authorize the use of $200,000 of emergency funds to counter increased wildfire activity.

Since April, the state has experienced more than a dozen large wildfires “aided by high temperatures, winds, and available fuels,” his office said in a statement.

“We thank the many brave men and women who have stepped up and responded to wildfires around Arizona,” Ducey said.

“I’m issuing today’s declaration to make sure they have every resource needed to do their jobs and protect our communities.”

The area near the fire is expecting temperatures in the triple digits through next Friday (June 30), with no sign of rain.

13 homes destroyed in Utah

Nine communities, including Brian Head, a ski town near the Dixie National Forest in the southern part of the state, have been evacuated, officials said. At least 800 people have been evacuated so far, according Brian Head town manager Bret Howser.

“The evacuations are in place indefinitely and more could be coming. They will stay in place until the fire manager feels it’s safe,” said Howser.

Officials at Southern Utah University opened their dorms to house those evacuees, according to CNN affiliate KTVX.

“Everybody just kind of chipped in and said,  ‘great, let’s do what we can,” said spokeswoman Ellen Treanor.

At least 13 homes and eight outbuildings have been destroyed in Brian Head, which is about 30 miles north of Zion National Park.

The massive Brian Head Fire has burned about 37,000 acres and is just 5% contained, according to Brian Head Fire spokeswoman Elaine Briggs.

The fire started June 17 and “grew very quickly through dense timber,” officials said.

Temperatures in Brian Head are expected to be fairly moderate, in the low 70s and upper 60s, through Friday (June 30), but no rain is in sight.

Other fires
Sixteen other active fires of lesser size are blazing around the West.

In New Mexico, the Corral Fire reached about 17,000 acres and is burning with low to moderate intensity, according to New Mexico Fire Information.

And in central Oregon, the Rhoades Canyon Fire grew to 15,000 acres but was 50% contained, according to CNN affiliate KTVZ.

The heat in the West and Southwest is blamed for the deaths of two people in California, and it could have been a factor in the deaths of two hikers whose bodies were found in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park.