The Zane Fire, which started at 5 p.m. yesterday from a lightning strike, has prompted evacuation of the Zane Grey Cabins, the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, Mead's Ranch and the Baptist Camp.
(Internet archive correction: In the early hours of the Zane Fire Forest Service Officials released incomplete information on evacuations that turned out to be incorrect. There were no evacuations associated with the Zane Fire, although nearby residents were given pre-evacuation notices to alert them to that possibility. This correction is being added to the archived stories for historical accuracy.)
As of 8:30 this morning, the fire, about 13 miles northeast of Payson, had reached 300-400 acres according to Gary Roberts, district fire prevention officer.
"It was about 5 acres and we were within 200 feet of buttoning it up last night, but we had 30-40 mile per hour winds reversing directions on us
constantly and they just blew it out," Roberts said.
A total of 120 personnel are battling the blaze, including 80 Hotshots (four Type 1 hand crews), a rapid-response team, three helicopters and several engine crews, with a type 2 incident management team from New Mexico scheduled to arrive later today or Saturday.
Forest Road 29 is closed from Mead's Ranch to Forest Road 289, the Tonto Fish Hatchery Road.
Flames erupting in all corners of Tonto National Forest are taxing the resources of fire crews, while residents near Cave Creek have been driven from their homes.
The Payson Ranger District has responded to a total of seven lightning-caused fires since late Tuesday afternoon.
"We have the technology to monitor the lightning strikes, and we registered about 40,000 on just this district (Tuesday)," Roberts said.
Three small -- less than 1 acre -- fires north of Diamond Point in the vicinity of Paiute Draw were quickly extinguished shortly after being reported Wednesday morning.
A trio of larger fires were reported Tuesday evening in Mazatzal Wilderness north of the East Verde River. The Deadman Fire, on the west side of Deadman Mesa, is about 5 acres in size. The spread of the fire has been stopped by crews who worked overnight aided by water drops from a heavy helicopter.
Cedar and Bench fires
The last two fires present the biggest challenge to fire personnel. The Cedar and the Bench fires are currently estimated at 50 acres and 85 acres, respectively, in size.
They are burning within a mile of each other on the steep, rugged north slopes of Hells Hole Canyon near the intersection of Hardscrabble Canyon.
Four Hotshot crews have been flown to the fires and are being supported by aerial resources, including a Sikorsky CH54 Sky Crane helicopter.
"We're just here to help support the ground crews," said George Knight, the Sikorsky pilot. "In truth, the guy on the ground with the shovel is the one who really puts out the fire. They are the first ones in and the last ones out."
The communities of Strawberry and Pine are located approximately 7 to 9 miles northeast of the two fires, but are not threatened at this time.
"They're really trying to contain them there," Roberts said. "They really have not grown in size."
Most of the visible smoke is coming from the Three Fire and the Cave Creek Complex to the south.
The Three Fire, approximately 11,000 acres, is located near the 3-Bar Wildlife area 6.5 miles north of Roosevelt Dam.
"It is spreading rapidly," Roberts said. "It's in a lot of light, flashy fuels that burn hot and very quickly."
John Philbin's Type 2 Incident Management Team has been called in to respond the the fire.
Cave Creek Complex
Formed when the Bronco and Humboldt fires combined, the Cave Creek Complex has reached approximately 46,000 acres, although it shifted direction Thursday evening away from evacuated areas.
Both fires began Tuesday afternoon when thunderstorm cells passed through the area. Dry vegetation has carried the flames, causing the fires to spread quickly in all directions.
The Humboldt Fire has moved steadily to the west and has burned under a 345 kV power transmission line.
Steep, inaccessible terrain has meant that firefighters on the Bronco Fire must hike in or be transported by helicopter. Shortly after noon Wednesday, the Bronco Fire moved into dense, highly flammable vegetation, and a huge smoke plume rose above Apache Peak and Tonto Hills.
Jeff Whitney's Type 1 Incident Management Team, the same team that fought the Willow Fire near Payson last summer, has been called in to lead the suppression effort.
Homeowners in two subdivisions were evacuated and access north on Seven Springs (Forest Road 24) has been closed to ensure both firefighter and public safety.
The Tonto Hills subdivision consists of approximately 200-400 housing units and the Camp Creek Recreation Residences number about 44 units.
Structures have been lost, and a Red Cross Shelter has been set up at the Desert Arroyo Middle School in Cave Creek.
Rim country residents can expect smokey conditions to continue for several days.
The Perkins Complex includes multiple fires in the Black Mountains north and west of Kingman.
The two largest and most active fires, both caused by lightning, are the Donkey and Perkins fires. The 900-acre Donkey Fire is 2 miles southeast of Oatman and 18 miles southwest of Kingman, while the 19,000-acre Perkins Fire is just west of state Highway 93 about 24 miles north/northwest of Kingman.
For more information, call the Payson Ranger District at (928) 474-7900, the Tonto National Forest at (602) 225-5200, or check online at www.fs.fed.us/r3/ tonto.