Heavy smoke covering State Route 87 prompted fire officials to close the highway south of Payson Tuesday night.
The notice was sent out just after 10 p.m. and is in effect until further notice.
Local residents of Rye, Gisela, Round Valley and Ox Bow will be permitted to travel between Payson and their homes.
The closure was not unexpected.
At the 8 p.m. briefing Tuesday, Law Enforcement Liaison Officer James Clawson said if the smoke became too thick, the Department of Public Safety would have to close the highway at a moment's notice.
"It's possible that we'll have to close the 87 soon, so be prepared at any time," Clawson said.
According to the toll free ADOT traffic line, State Route 87 is closed from one mile south of State Route 188 to one mile north of Rye.
For ADOT traffic information, call 1-888-411-7623. (This is a voice recognition phone system. You must clearly say "State Route 87, section 2.")
Willow jumps containment line
The southern edge of the Willow Fire took a turn for the worse Tuesday as the flames blew across the containment line at the Barnhardt trail near Highway 87.
Operations Section Chief Buck Wickham said fire crews would spend Tuesday night trying to get in front of the fire, which is moving in a southeast direction along the Beeline Highway.
The 345-kilovolt power lines that parallel the highway remain a significant concern. As a result, the overall incident has been elevated in priority.
Motorists are encouraged to stay away from the area near the fire, as curious drivers could cause accidents and present a hazard.
"Stay away," Wickham said. "Give us a chance to do what we do."
Clawson reiterated that the communities of Rye, Deer Creek and Tonto Basin will have heavy smoke for the next few days, but will not have to be evacuated.
Wickham said the containment lines near Payson and Pine are still secure.
The Willow Fire started June 24 from a lightning strike in the Mazatzal Wilderness area of the Tonto National Forest southwest of Payson. It has grown to 90,500 acres, and is 22 percent contained. So far, the total cost is $6.1 million.
Watch payson.com for regular updates.