A lightning-caused fire near the area ravaged just a year ago by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire has triggered the evacuation of 5,000 residents of the Fort Apache Reservation.
The Kinishba Fire, named for a prominent prehistoric ruin near where it started on the reservation, ignited about 1 p.m. Sunday and has already consumed 5,800 acres south of Pinetop-Lakeside. After traveling in a northeast direction, the fire changed course Tuesday morning and was moving southeast.
Communities evacuated include Whiteriver and smaller communities to the north, including Cradleboard and Jurassic Park. Evacuees are staying in six emergency shelters in the area, camping out, or staying with relatives.
The fire is currently several miles south of the communities of Pinetop-Lakeside, Wagon Wheel, Hondah and McNary. If the fire reaches trigger points set up about two miles north of its current location, those communities will be evacuated.
A Type 1 management team took over management of the fire at noon Monday. Such teams specialize in complex fires that could threaten urban areas.
"There's big potential if they don't stop it before it hits the drainage bottom, because if it goes up the other side they'll have all sorts of problems," Bob Rick, Payson Ranger District station manager, said.
Windy conditions combined with low humidity are similar to those during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, according to Robin Wennberg, forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which consumed nearly 470,000 total acres, destroyed 275,000 of the tribe's 1.6 million acres.
Payson Ranger District fires
Lightning ruined the Payson Ranger District's three-week run without wildfires as four blazes erupted Sunday and four more Monday.
District firefighters also responded to a ninth fire in the Pleasant Valley Ranger District and another in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Only one of the fires exceeded one-quarter acre and all have been extinguished, Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer, said.
Three of the fires that started Sunday were on the eastern half of the district, and the fourth was in the Pine area. Two of the fires that started Monday were in the Bonita Creek area, one was in the Hellsgate Wilderness area, and one was in Pleasant Valley.
The latter had already consumed two acres when it was discovered and reached five acres before it was contained, Roberts said.
"We haven't had any lightning before this weekend, and all this time we haven't had any human-caused fires, which is really mind-numbing to me," Roberts said.
Sunday, the Rim country saw its first moisture since April, although only trace amounts fell in most areas.
"There was a good rain from Christopher Creek to Hunter Creek and then the rest of the district was kind of spotty and light," Rick said.
Areas of the Payson Ranger District that are closed include everything north of Control Road 64 from where it connects at Highway 87, east to where it comes out past Tonto Village at the Highway 260 intersection. The closure area also includes everything north of Highway 260 from where it connects with Control Road 64 to the top of the Rim. The Colcord Ridge area also is closed.
The forest area around Pine and Strawberry remains closed. That area is bordered by Control Road 64 and Tonto Natural Bridge Road to the south, the power lines running from the bridge road to the Irving Power Plant to the west, the Rim to the north, and Webber Creek to the east.
The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park remains open to visitors.
Campfire and smoking restrictions remain in effect on all remaining Forest Service lands managed by the Payson Ranger District that are not within the closure areas. The restrictions ban campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires, except in established Forest Service fee camp and picnic grounds where grills are provided. Liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that meet safety specifications are allowed.
Smoking is allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area with a three-foot radius and free of all flammable material down to the mineral soil.
Additional closures are possible if the district does not receive substantial precipitation soon.
For detailed information concerning closures, contact the Payson Ranger District: (928) 474-7900. The Globe Ranger District can be contacted for information about the Pinal Mountains closure at (928) 402-6200.
For other fire information, use the Internet at www.fs.fed. us/r3/fire or call toll-free (877) 864-6985.