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Over 500 firefighters battle northern Arizona blaze

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Western wildfires still raging

PHOENIX (AP) — A wildfire burning Wednesday through a dense Arizona forest has forced hundreds of people from their homes, closed a major road and created a huge plume of smoke over the same area devastated by a blaze that killed 19 firefighters four years ago.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said the fire is the state's top priority. He said the next 24 hours will be critical and that the state will provide whatever support is necessary.

Firefighters in Washington state were battling three fires near Wenatchee that had grown to about 37 square miles (95 square kilometers).

The cause of the fire, which is one of 10 large fires burning in the state, remains under investigation, according to the Associated Press.

Residents of the communities of Mayer, Poland Junction and Chaparral Hills have been evacuated.

Pam Baker, who lives next door in the northern Arizona town southeast of Prescott, wet the thick brown grass around her home but resisted leaving.

Bloch said his group hasn't challenged logging in the area of the Utah fire in two decades.

The fire has charred more than 28 square miles (73 square kilometers) while being fanned by winds ranging to 35 mph (56 kph) winds.

Authorities say the Utah fire was started on June 17 by someone using a torch tool to burn weeds on private land. Crews are facing dry, windy conditions and a "high potential" for extreme fire behavior.

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And in California, a wildfire destroyed the home of "Big Bang Theory" star Johnny Galecki on a ranch in the San Luis Obsipo area, said Nicole Perna, a spokeswoman for the 42-year-old actor.

The Frye Fire is about 70 miles northeast of Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona.

About 16 million people remained affected by heat warnings and advisories in Southern California, southern Nevada and parts of Arizona. It has spread several kilometres east to an area around Panguitch Lake, a popular spot for fishing.

The blaze forced the evacuation of the town of Mayer along with several other mountain communities in the area.

An entire town of 1,400 was evacuated in southern Arizona as the Goodwin fire threatened homes.

Resort officials were concerned about the possibility of the Fourth of July festivities being wrecked because of the fire, but on the resort's website, Burke Wilkerson, the Resort's Vice President and General Manager said that "most of the fire activity has occurred in the areas outside and north of Town, and due to the extraordinary efforts of firefighters, Brian Head Resort, the Town of Brian Head and other local businesses have been unaffected by the fire".

Meanwhile, a firefighters made gains against a wildfire in California's Central Coast region that forced about 250 people to evacuate from their homes.

Sizzling heat is exacerbating the fire risks out West, where tired crews have been battling blazes in Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

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