YARNELL, Ariz. (AP) - 7-1-13 4:20am update:
President Barack Obama is expressing his condolences to the families of the 19 firefighters who died battling an Arizona wildfire.
Mister Obama says the firefighters were heroes and highly skilled professionals who quote "put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet."
The president, who is traveling in Africa, says the federal government will be in close contact with state and local officials in Arizona to provide support.
The firefighters - members of an elite crew fighting a forest fire northwest of Phoenix - were overtaken Sunday by a fast-moving blaze stoked by hot winds. The fire also destroyed some 200 homes.
An Arizona forestry official says 19 firefighters have died battling a fast-moving wildfire.
Forestry spokesman Art Morrison says the firefighters were caught by the fire Sunday afternoon near the central Arizona town of Yarnell. He says they were forced to deploy their fire shelters.
Earlier Sunday, the wildfire prompted evacuations of 50 homes in several communities about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. Later Sunday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office expanded the evacuations to include more residents in the town of Yarnell.
Morrison says several homes in the community of Glenisle have been burned. He says no injuries or deaths have been reported from that area.
About 200 firefighters are fighting the wildfire, which has also forced the closure of parts of state Route 89.