Trio of large wildfires continue to burn in Arizona, Bush Fire now largest fire in U.S.

Updated Tuesday, June 16


Ole Olafson

The Bush Fire continues to grow. Stewart Mountain Dam in foreground.

Ole Olafson, Reporter

The Bush Fire is an active wildfire east of the Phoenix metro area, in the Tonto National Forest. It grew rapidly overnight and caused the closure of a portion of Beeline Highway (AZ 87) along with several popular recreation areas.

Recreationalists hoping to do some off-road driving or use Lake Saguaro were met with disappointment Sunday morning as Highway 87, which serves as the Valley’s primary motorway to the Mogollon rim and numerous mountain communities to the north, was closed between Bush Highway to the south and AZ 188 to the north.  The southbound lane of Bush Hwy which many North Valley residents use to access Lake Saguaro and the Lower Salt River recreation areas was also closed at its intersection with AZ 87 on Sunday.

The Bush Fire, which is rumored to be human-caused, grew from around 600 acres on Saturday to over 7,500 acres by Sunday morning and is burning rapidly towards Four Peaks and the Sugarloaf Recreation Areas.  Both of those areas, in addition to the recreation areas at Pobrecito, Butcher Jones and Lake Saguaro were closed as a result of fire danger or heavy smoke.

11 engines, three hotshot crews, two helicopters and a plane have reportedly not been able to contain the fire at all, which is burning in a wilderness area that features rough terrain and few roads.

Recreation areas south of Lake Saguaro, along the Lower Salt River, remained open on Sunday, but officials advised the public to avoid the area due to health concerns from heavy smoke.

Update June 16:  The Bush Fire reportedly doubled in size Sunday night, from 7,400 acres to around 15,000 acres.  It then mushroomed in size again Monday night to over 64,500.  It is currently 0% contained and the largest active fire in the U.S.  AZ Central reports that 400 personnel are fighting the fire.  Residents of Tonto Basin and Punkin Center from Highway 188 and A-Cross Road to Highway 188 at Rambo Realty have been ordered to evacuate ahead of the fast moving fire.

Two other major fires continue to burn in Arizona.

The Bighorn Fire is currently active in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson.  The lightning-started fire, which reportedly began burning on June 5 has consumed around 12,500 acres and is only about 10% contained.  The fire, which has caused the evacuation of over 200 homes is not far from the communities of Golder Ranch, Oro Valley, Summerhaven and Ventana Canyon.  Crews are reportedly devising plans to minimize the danger to those communities and other inhabited areas.

Update June 16:  Tuesday night, the Bighorn fire had burned 15,800 acres and was 40% contained according to InciWeb.

The Mangum Fire has closed the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

392 people are fighting the fire near Jacob Lake in Northeastern Arizona.  It has burned roughly 20,000 acres of the Kaibab National Forest about 30 miles north of the North Rim.  Highway 89A from Marble Canyon to Fredonia is closed, as is AZ 67 to the Grand Canyon.  An evacuation notice was reportedly issued for the Jacob Lake area on Friday.

Update June 16:  Tuesday evening, InciWeb reported that the Mangum fire had grown to nearly 30,000 acres and was only 3% contained.