Firefighters battle wildfires in Arizona, Utah, California

Firefighters battle wildfires in Arizona, Utah, California

It has become the largest wildfire in the nation at 78 square miles (201 square kilometers).

"Getting closer to Mayer, it looked like we were driving into some alien sort of invasion, like the whole sky was on fire", she said.

Parts of two state highways are closed because of the fire. Winds made conditions more unsafe for some 500 firefighters assigned to the inferno, and the blaze was just 1 percent contained on Tuesday night.

"Atmospheric instability may contribute to large fire growth", fire officials said Wednesday morning.

Brian Head fire burns and then moves on to burn some more.

Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said Noel's assertion is an over-simplification of wildfires that are the result of fire suppression, climate change, drought and unpredictable winds.

The fire is burning in communities around Prescott, a mountain city about 100 miles (160.9 kilometers) north of Phoenix that draws a mix of desert dwellers escaping the heat, retirees and visitors to its famed Old West-themed Whiskey Row.

In an effort to get ahead of the flames, firefighters are carving out a containment line on a steep hill as planes drop fire retardant.

Firefighters said Wednesday the fire near the ski resort town of Brian Head grew by almost 6 square miles (10 square kilometers), even though winds weren't quite as fierce as they feared. Several nearby communities have been evacuated.

Sheriff's deputies began helping residents of the Disney Ranch, Tenderfoot Trail Road, Running Horse Road and Placerita Canyon areas to evacuate and affected residents were told to seek shelter at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita.

Authorities said Tuesday that Mayer's post office has been closed until further notice because of the fire, which was fanned Tuesday by 35 miles per hour winds.

In Arizona, a wildfire that has charred more than 28 square miles (72 square kilometers) burned and forced the evacuation of the town of Mayer, population about 1,400, and other areas as a precaution. Another wildfire in Arizona forced the evacuation of a town with about 1,400 residents.

Crews in California, meanwhile, were making gains against two new fires that spread quickly, and Arizona firefighters had to ground aircraft because of unauthorized drones over a fire near Flagstaff.

In Utah, firefighters hoped residents could return to homes in the town of Brian Head that have been evacuated since June 17.

Officials say the fire erupted June 17 by someone using a weed-burning torch. It has spread several kilometres east to an area around Panguitch Lake, a popular spot for fishing.

The sun peeks through heavy smoke from a wildfire locally called Goodwin Fire as seen from the town of Mayer, Ariz., Tuesday, June 27, 2017.

Crews in Utah and California were continuing to fight fires that forced hundreds of people from their homes.