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Wind-whipped wildfire forces evacuations in Arizona

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A wind-driven fire burned through mountainous terrain in northeastern Arizona on Friday, forcing residents in two small subdivisions to evacuate their homes and blackening some 2,000 tree-studded acres, officials said.

    Residents in the Red Cabin Ranch and Whiting Homestead areas were forced to leave late on Thursday as the so-called San Juan Fire crept closer to their homes in the White Mountains.

    An estimated 37 properties, mostly summer homes, were involved in the evacuation, said Marta Call, a U.S. forest service spokeswoman. She said the outlook was positive, with the blaze moving into areas already burned or thinned of fuel.

     The air and ground attack includes nine highly trained teams of firefighters known as hotshot crews, 12 fire engines, five heavy air tankers, one helicopter, and an incident management team to oversee the efforts.

    The blaze, burning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, remained a safe distance from the 2,500-person community of Vernon, Arizona, said Sergeant Richard Guinn, an Apache County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

     Authorities said the fire started on forest land on Thursday in an area frequented by campers and grew quickly with the help of strong winds. The cause has not been determined, and there has been no been no estimate yet for containment.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)

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