TODAY   |  June 06, 2011

Wildfires force more Ariz. evacuations

New evacuations have been ordered in east-central Arizona, where massive wildfires continue to rage. NBC’s George Lewis reports from Springerville, Ariz.

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>>> ordered in arizona where a massive wildfire is raging. this as anxious homeowners in parts of the midwest are keeping a nervous eye on the rising missouri river . we've got two reports beginning in arizona with nbc's george lewis . george, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. these are monster fires burning in arizona . over a quarter million acres scorched, 2,100 people on the fire lines. thousands of homes threatened.

>> we just dropped the line up --

>> reporter: firefighters spent the weekend attacking the fast-moving blaze from the air. the dense and rugged forest has made it difficult for ground crews to get equipment into the area. officials say this particular wildfire near the new mexico border has been unusually hard to get a handle on.

>> it's mostly in the way it's behaving. it's such that we can't get anywherenary it. it's such -- anywhere near it. it's such that our resources are a limited value because we need people on the ground even using the air resources that we have.

>> anybody who's not critical personnel stay off of 191 and 180.

>> reporter: sunday afternoon the fire jumped highway 180 into the town of esqudea.

>> it's a wilderness area , there's no fire treatment. it is going to be a hot fire.

>> reporter: the fire swept through beaver creek ranch and destroyed several vacation cabins. daytime looked more like night in the small town of alpine.

>> it feels surreal.

>> reporter: with mandatory evacuations ordered over the weekend throughout the area, police escorted residents back to their homes on sunday, allowing them only a few minutes to choose what to save.

>> they said 15 minutes , and they were very gracious with us. i know we had closer to maybe 30 or 45.

>> i was driving faster so we wouldn't hold up --

>> reporter: this woman wasn't as lucky.

>> when i got down in there, another sheriff came pulling up and said i had to get out. i said i had an escort. he said, you know, we had to leave because the fire was right there. we had to turn around and leave.

>> reporter: with zero containment and hot temperatures expected today, firefighters will also be dealing with 50 mile-per-hour winds, a deadly combination. meredith?

>> george lewis , thank you very