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Thousands Evacuated as US Wildfire Threatens Arizona City

People watch the growing plume of smoke from across Highway 92 as the Monument Fire burns in the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista, Arizona, June 14, 2011

U.S. authorities say high winds have pushed a dangerous wildfire toward a city in the southwestern state of Arizona, forcing more people to evacuate their homes.

Some 1,000 emergency personnel are battling the fire, which jumped over a highway late Sunday, propelled by winds gusting up to nearly 100 kilometers an hour. The highway had served as a containment line protecting the nearby city of Sierra Vista.

Authorities ordered additional evacuations, raising the number of people displaced in recent days to almost 10,000. At least 44 homes have been destroyed. No serious injuries have been reported.

Forecasters predicted winds would moderate on Monday. By Sunday night, authorities said the blaze was 27 percent contained.

Elsewhere, more than 3,000 firefighters were trying to stop a larger wildfire that has burned in eastern Arizona since May 29. Authorities said that blaze was nearly half contained.

The Arizona wildfires are among several burning in spots across the southwestern United States. The U.S. National Interagency Fire Center says fires nationwide have burned almost as much land in the first half of this year (1.25 million hectares) as in the entire 2010 fire season (1.29 million hectares).