PHOENIX - Gov. Janet Napolitano declared a state of emergency Tuesday in Gila and Navajo counties, freeing up money to help those counties cope with a wildfire that has forced thousands to evacuate their homes.
With the declaration, Napolitano allocated $200,000 for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management to use in firefighting efforts.
Before flying to Whiteriver to meet with officials and residents, Napolitano also activated the State of Arizona Emergency Response and Recovery Plan, which directs state efforts and assets during times of emergency.
“Our hearts are with the residents of Whiteriver and the surrounding areas,’’ she said. “We are pulling for the firefighters.’’
The emergency order also authorizes the adjutant general to mobilize National Guard personnel if necessary.
So far, 50 Guard members were reassigned to the National Guard Armory in Show Low from training exercises in Camp Navajo outside Flagstaff. They were to aid local law enforcement in the evacuated sites and work at road blocks, Napolitano said.
“The Kinishba fire has moved quickly to threaten White Mountain communities, and so must we,’’ she said.
The wildfire started Sunday on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and had more than quadrupled in size by Tuesday. Authorities ordered evacuations in part of Whiteriver and several other communities Monday, though no homes or buildings had been destroyed by the blaze as of Tuesday.
Napolitano did not say if she would seek a federal disaster area designation for the sites burned by the Kinishba fire. That classification would make federal aid available to help repair and replace public facilities destroyed by the blaze.
“We have already gone to the state level. If we need to go to the federal level we will,’’ she said.