Wildfire Burns 2,100 Acres Near Roosevelt Lake


A human-caused fire involving more than 2,100 acres in the Sierra Anchas wilderness near Roosevelt Lake is now more than four times the size of what was first reported at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

A lookout at Aztec Peak called in to report the blaze -- now called the Coon Creek Fire -- and was evacuated from the tower along with about a dozen people from area campgrounds and a nearby ranch.

Fire reached the steel lookout tower, but because of light fuels around it, the tower was spared.

Bill Torres, information officer with the Tonto National Forest in Phoenix, said Forest Service officials are investigating the fire's origins.

Torres said 250 people are involved in the firefighting effort, both on the ground and in the air.

Eleven 20-person crews, two engines, two helicopters, three air tankers and two fixed-wing aircraft were involved in the firefighting effort as of Friday morning. Five more Hot Shot crews have been ordered.

"We want to be ready," Torres said. "We'd rather be ahead of the curve. We've had some smaller (fires) scattered, but nothing this large this season."

He said when local firefighters from the Pleasant Valley Ranger District, Tonto Basin and Payson arrived at the scene Wednesday, some 500 acres of heavy fuel had already burned.

With the current dry conditions, the Forest Service stresses the importance of fire safety --the smallest spark can start a major wildfire.

"Our first consideration is public safety," said Tom Klabunde, acting Forest Supervisor of the Tonto National Forest. "People out in the forest must take personal responsibility and help prevent human-caused wildfires."

The hot, dry weather with gusting 15-to-25 mph winds out of the south-southwest ignited pinon, juniper, chaparral and fir.

As of Friday, no end was in sight. Torres said, "It's moving on. Fire will be heat, wind and terrain driven. There's still plenty of fuel. They're maintaining an indirect attack dropping retardant from several tankers until noon."

Torres said firefighters are anticipating wind gusts of up to 40 mph. The fire is now about 30 miles northwest of Globe and 20 miles south of Young.

"They don't expect to make a whole lot of headway today," Torres said. "It could be a while."

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