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Fire whipping across northeastern Arizona, evacuations ordered

VERNON, Ariz. (AP) -- A wind-whipped wildfire is burning in northeastern Arizona about halfway between Springerville and Show Low and has grown to more than 2,000 acres which is 3 square miles.

The San Juan Fire was reported about noon Thursday southeast of the small community of Vernon.

Apache County officials say the wildfire had charred about 100 acres by 2 p.m. and grew quickly, fanned by wind gusts of 33 mph.

Authorities say the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Forestry and Wildland Fire Management officials say the wildfire is moving in a north-easterly direction into the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, where thinning projects could slow the blaze.

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the Red Cabin Ranch sub division and Whiting Homestead as of 7:20 p.m. on Thursday, according to the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.

County officials said residents in the areas of Green Peaks Hideaway are on a non-mandatory pre-evacuation notice.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A wind-whipped wildfire in northeastern Arizona's White Mountains charred more than 1 1/2 square miles by Thursday evening, authorities said.

The San Juan Fire was reported at about noon southeast of the small community of Vernon, which is about halfway between Springerville and Show Low and has about 2,500 residents.

The fire had charred about 100 acres by 2 p.m. and grew quickly, fanned by 33 mph wind gusts, Apache County officials said.

It was burning in a northeasterly direction into the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, where ongoing thinning projects "will definitely help slow down any fire activity," forest supervisor Jim Zornes said.

Residents in the areas of Red Cabin Ranch, Whiting Homestead and Green Peaks Hideaway were being advised of a potential nonmandatory evacuation. A dozen structures reportedly were threatened, but it wasn't immediately clear if any were homes.

County officials said a group of Boy Scouts voluntarily evacuated a camp near Green's Peak Hideaway and a group of girls voluntarily left a camp south of Vernon.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Sgt. Richard Guinn, Apache County's Emergency Services Coordinator, said authorities have identified the point of origin in a forest area commonly used by campers about 16 or 17 miles east of Show Low.

Four hotshot crews, five heavy air tankers and several engines and bulldozers were battling the fire.

Forest officials said a Type II incident management team, the second-highest level available, will take charge of the fire Friday.

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