Some evacuations lifted for 174,000-acre 'Bush Fire' in Tonto National Forest
By Stephanie Olmo , Anita Roman , Steve Nielsen and Associated Press
Published June 13
Updated 1 hour ago
FOX 10 Phoenix
The communities will continue being in a "set" advisory, meaning they should prepare to evacuate if fire conditions become unfavorable again. Officials confirmed the fire has burned 174,397 acres ...
Bush Fire burns over 170,000 acres
PHOENIX - There is good news for people living near the Bush Fire. The Gila County Sheriff's Office said the following evacuated communities may return home on Sunday, June 21st at 9 a.m. Only residents will be allowed back home and will need to show proof of residency:
* Tonto Basin
* Punkin Center
* Pioneer Pass
* State Creek
* Jakes Corner
The communities will continue being in a "set" advisory, meaning they should prepare to evacuate if fire conditions become unfavorable again.
Fire continues to grow
Officials confirmed the fire has burned 174,397 acres of land and is 15% contained. Over 750 personnel are assigned to fight the fire.
While the fire's size grew nearly 20,000 acres overnight, officials say that much of its growth is due to burn out operations to control its spread and to protect buildings in the area.
A top-tier management team assumed command of firefighters battling Arizona’s largest current wildfire because of the fire’s complexity and because the team has more specialized and experienced personnel than the managers that were overseeing the effort, team spokesman Dee Hines said.
Residents in the Sunflower area and the Apache Lake area have been ordered to evacuate.
"Residents within the area of Sunflower should gather the following items: water, snacks, prescriptions, identification and other important documents, leashes and carriers for pets, pet food, a change of clothes, and any other necessary items for yourself and your family," read a statement by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Road closures remain
There are multiple highway closures as a result of the Bush Fire. State Route 87 or Beeline Highway is closed from Bush Highway to just south of Payson. State Route 188 is also closed near the evacuation area. State Route 88 is closed in both directions from Apache Lake to SR-188.
If you need to get to Payson, you can no longer detour through Globe. Options include taking Interstate 17 to Camp Verde and then taking 260 to Payson or taking US 60 up to Show Low and cutting back on the 260 through Clay Springs and Kohls Ranch.
The fire is said to be human-caused.
Community members react
Bush Fire evacuee recounts harrowing ordeal
Fires crews continue to battle the fast-growing wildfire. FOX 10's Stephanie Olmo reports.
“It is a crazy time," Shelley Allison said. "People are scared about COVID, and now we have to leave our house. Where do we go? How do we stay safe going?”
She's the store manager of Tonto Basin Marketplace. She says with the fire miles away, people are rushing in to stock up.
“Everyone is confused. They don’t know what’s going on. They are trying to get groceries so they can bunker down and fuel so they can evacuate," Allison explained.
Vic Romano was driving through the area when he learned of the highway closure. “It is going to extend my vacation," he said.
He's from Durango, Colorado and one of the many drivers having to come up with a new plan to get home.
"It doesn't feel real. It feels like a movie," said Tammy Swanson, who had to leave her home in Punkin Center due to the fire. Residents in her area were told to leave on Monday.
Swanson said it's the first time she has had to do so.
"I didn't have a place to go. I didn't have the money, and I didn't have no place to go. I was emotional. I told the sheriff that, and he said the Red Cross is here for you," said Swanson.
Currently, Swanson is in Globe, where she, along with her son and pets are staying at for now.
"People don't know how hard it is until they experience it," Swanson said.
Check back for updates as they become available.
Fire Information: 928-351-7596 (public)
The Red Cross Evacuation Center has been relocated to the Payson Senior Center at 514 W. Main St., Payson, AZ 85541.
Maricopa County: https://ready.maricopa.gov/999/Emergency-Management
Gila County: http://www.readygila.com
Smoke Outlook: https://fires.airfire.org/outlooks/CentralArizona
Road closure information: https://az511.com
Tonto National Forest: https://fs.usda.gov/alerts/tonto/alerts-notices
Tonto Basin and Punkin Center area residents told to evacuate
The Bush Fire burning northeast of the Valley has increased in size and it's forcing people to leave behind their homes and evacuate as crews try to get a handle on the blaze. FOX 10's Ty Brennan reports.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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