Ponderosa Fire Prompts Evacuations In Thompson Draw Area

Fire closes Highway 260

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A fire that broke out at about 11:10 a.m. today near Ponderosa Campground is burning toward the Thompson Draw area, about 12 miles east of Payson off east Highway 260.

The fire, dubbed The Ponderosa Fire, is spreading rapidly.

Residents of the Thompson Draw area are being evacuated and fire officials are redirecting resources from the Willow Fire in an effort to contain the blaze.

A press release from the Tonto National Forest Service reports that there are at least 85 cabins in the area.

Pre-evacuation notices have been given to Christopher Creek, Kohl's Ranch and Bear Flat Communities.

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Fire Crews rush to the scene of a new fire burning 12 miles east of Payson.

According to the Gila County Sheriff's Office Dispatch, an evacuation center is being set up at Rim Country Middle School located at 304 South Meadow on the east end of the Wilson Dome.

"The center is the gym and the entrance for evacuees is at the northwest corner," said Frank Larby, RCMS principal. "Red Cross is here. We have some tables set up and the kitchen is open. Evacuees must register when they arrive."

Jake Saylor, communications manager for the Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross said they were told to expect 80 people from the Thompson Draw area.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and communications have been disrupted.

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The fire along East 260 forced the closure of the highway as firefighters work to control the blaze.

The fire has burned down power poles and lines, according to Jan Parsons, APS District Manager. Power and phone service to the communities of Christopher Creek, Forest Lakes and Young have been affected.

"We won't be able to go in there and assess the damage until they get the fire put out," she said. "We can't even begin to give you an (estimated time) of when we'll have power restored. They'll be out of power indefinitely."

Highway 260 is currently closed in both directions between Star Valley and Heber.

Watch this website for updates on this new fire burning east of Payson.

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