San Juan fire has burned over 5,000 acres, 90 buildings threaten -

San Juan fire has burned over 5,000 acres, 90 buildings threatened

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Fire crews are still trying to get a handle on the San Juan wildfire burning in Eastern Arizona.

It's now burned 5,000 acres, and there have been some mandatory evacuations.  As many as ninety structures are now threatened, say fire officials on Saturday.

A few cabin communities have been forced to leave, and the community of Vernon is bracing for the worst. Residents are packing up so they can evacuate at a moments notice.

The San Juan Fire crept dangerously close to several mountain communities in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Many residents living northeast of the blaze, in Vernon, stayed up through the night in hopes that the fire would continue it's march away from their homes.

"I stayed up all night because I didn't know what it was going to do, just watching it pretty much laid down on top of one hill. Within the past hour and a half it's now topped that hill," said Bill Jordan.

The growing fire is forcing evacuations for the Red Cabin Ranch and Whiting Homestead areas. Pre-evacuation notices have been issued for Greens Peak Hideaway and Hidden meadows ranch. Vernon has not been given any orders for an evacuation, but many are packing up, ready to go.

"You can see flames from our front porch and the smoke just enough you can see flames on the ridge... we're all concerned because the wind is bad," said Jaci May.

Fast moving wind is fanning the fire that has burned 1,500 acres. Five heavy air tankers along with nine hot shot crews are battling the blaze.

"I think the wind in this part of the county is one of the major concerns always, so a lot of the steep terrain is very dangerous for them to get in and be able to walk the terrain and see if they can use their to get anything out," said Pam Baltimore with the U.S. Forest Service.

Residents in Vernon are keeping a close eye on the flames. Many say this afternoon that the flames peaked over a mountain ridge towards their communities.

"You are kind of at a loss, you feel kind of stuck, do you go or do you stay? What do you do?" said May.

There are other evacuations ordered for Carlock Ranch. The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Round Valley Middle School in Eager, Arizona.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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