Arizona firefighters battled Tuesday to gain a foothold in a massive wildfire, one of two that forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns and closed nearly all major highways in the area.
The Telegraph Fire is now the ninth largest wildfire in state history, according to Dean McAlister, Incident Command Center spokesperson for the Apache Junction fire.
The blaze burned 76,260 acres and was 18% contained on Tuesday night, according to an update from Inciweb.
Fire crews working on the Telegraph Fire primarily use the Pinal Fire 2017 burn scar, along with certain “control functions,” to prevent the fire from progressing eastward, McAlister said.
“At night our goal is to bring the fire – when there is no wind – is to bring it down, to create a buffer zone, that is, when the main fire is burning there and ‘he’s settling in,’ McAlister said.
The blaze destroyed the family cabin of Arizona House President Rusty Bowers, adding it to the growing list of homeowners devastated by the wildfire that swept through southern Gila County.
Bowers learned of the cabin’s loss on Monday afternoon, hours after a controversial session of the House where Republicans failed to pass a nearly $ 2 billion tax cut and after a meeting with the Governor Doug Ducey. Among other things, Ducey and Bowers talked about fire suppression and forest fire prevention.
Bowers, R-Mesa, in comments Monday to ABC15 News Arizona, said his family were at the cabin on Saturday as the fire escalated, but did not stay long.
“We took off,” Bower said, adding that they had gathered what they could. They tried to get home on Sunday, but the Globe Fire District ranger chief warned them, saying there was too much chance of being trapped by the growing blaze.
Several factors make the job of firefighters difficult: afternoon winds of around 30 mph, daytime temperatures in the mid-1990s, and “steep and rocky terrain”, which is “prone to fires. ”Said McAlister.
As the winds this weekend are expected to subside, temperatures are expected to rise by around 10 degrees, making it “more difficult to fight the fires due to firefighters’ hydration issues,” McAlister said.
The Telegraph fire was likely caused by people, but is still under investigation.
Several miles east of the wildfire, the smaller Mescal Fire was at 23% containment on Tuesday. Firefighters have lifted evacuation orders for residents of the San Carlos community and in the Soda Canyon and Coyote Flats areas. But the community of East El Capitan was still in compulsory evacuation.
The fire burned nearly 105 square miles (13 square kilometers) – mostly desert scrub, oak, and grass. It was first reported on June 2 southeast of Globe.
The cause is still under investigation.
Meanwhile, in northern Arizona, a much smaller wildfire on Tuesday closed a section of US Highway 180. The blaze, just 5 square kilometers, was reported 37 kilometers northeast on Monday. west of Flagstaff. The cause is unknown.
Contributors: Rafael Carranza and Amaris Encinas, Republic of Arizona; The Associated Press.