Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Arizona fire spurs more calls to flee

EAGAR, Ariz. — Most people here were frantically packing their things yesterday, nervously watching the smoke billowing from a nearby mountain as they awaited an evacuation order. But a hardy few were hunkering down as the Wallow Fire — now, at nearly 310,000 acres, the second-largest in Arizona's history — surged toward them.

With the wildfire encroaching on residential areas in eastern Arizona along the New Mexico line, law enforcement officers have been going door to door in the mountain hamlets that ring the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests, urging residents to evacuate.

Most comply, but a number of stubborn souls refuse to budge, the authorities say. Some linger to protect their livestock. Others stay, vowing to protect their homes and businesses. The authorities call the holdouts foolhardy and require them to sign liability waivers, but do not try to force them out.

"They have a constitutional right to stay on their property,'' said Brannon Eagar, the chief deputy of the Apache County Sheriff's Department, who acknowledged being frustrated by those who stay behind. "We will not go in and remove people, but we will not be liable for their safety.''



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