Wallow Fire: Firefighters Brace for Winds as Fire Crosses Into New Mexico

Fire reaches 6 percent containment as residents wait to return to their homes.

ByABC News
June 11, 2011, 11:04 AM

June 11, 2011— -- Firefighters are bracing for high winds today as they continue to battle an Arizona wildfire that has spread over more than 600 square miles as it crossed the border into New Mexico, authorities said.

The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona is still keeping nearly 10,000 people out of their homes. The blaze started late last month and is 6 percent contained.

Over the last couple of days, firefighters got a break from the winds and that has helped them make good progress on this fire after it has destroyed at least 29 homes and prompted evacuations of thousands of people.

At a community meeting overnight, Apache County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Brannon Eagar struggled to break the news to evacuees.

"It hurts me to come over here and see my community over here. I want to be able to see you guys over there where we belong," he said.

Hot, heavy winds are expected to return today. Winds in the 30 to 35 mile an hour range could make this fire spread even further.

"The atmosphere will be unstable and very conducive to fire growth," Jim Whittington, Southwest Interagency Incident Management team told the Associated Press. "We're very concerned about the winds."

And at least two Arizona-Texas power lines were still in the fire's path.

El Paso Electric previously warned its 372,000 customers that rolling blackouts may occur if the lines are cut, the Associated Press reported.

Aside from battling the blaze, officials are also worried about air quality.

The concentrated sooty air raised pollution to high levels

"We've got a serious potential health problem on our hands," Mark Shaffer of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality told the Associated Press Friday night."When you get levels like this, it's off the map."

ABC News' Kevin Dolak contributed to this report.