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Arizona wildfire near Flagstaff scorches 10,000 acres

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By Felicia Fonseca

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Crews battling a 10,000-acre fire that has threatened hundreds of homes were sending planes Tuesday to learn the full scope of the blaze, which choked the skies with rolling clouds of smoke and sent flames high into the air.

About 10 percent of the wildfire outside Flagstaff was under control late Monday, as firefighters focused Monday on protecting endangered homes by digging trenches, clearing out dry brush and spraying them down.

At the height of the fire, rolling clouds of black and gray smoke darkened the sky north of Flagstaff, and bright red and orange flames shot up more than 60 feet in the air. The smoke lingered over roadways, forcing drivers to use headlights in daylight hours.

The flames reached the back yards of some homes while coming within a few hundred feet of others, said Dugger Hughes, the incident commander. No structures have burned.

"The homes are looking very secure right now," he said.

Hughes said crews would fly over the area early Tuesday morning to get a better idea of the perimeter and of spot fires, some of which have jumped up to a half-mile ahead of the so-called Schultz fire.

Residents of about 750 homes remained under evacuation orders, and Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil urged them to be patient.

"At this time we're not prepared to put people back in their homes," he said Monday evening.

Heat, low humidity and strong winds have challenged firefighters on the ground and in the air in the area northeast of Flagstaff. Sustained winds of up to 20 mph with gusts of more than 30 mph grounded heavy air tankers Monday.

The fire is believed to have been started by an abandoned campfire, and authorities were looking for anyone who might have more information. The fire is burning in rough terrain, consuming ponderosa pine, mixed conifer and dry brush.