Tuesday, May 15, 2012

At 4,600 acres, Sunflower Fire largest in state

Sunflower Fire News Release
May 15, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Fire Information: (602) 525-1042

Acres:  4,600                                           Start date:  May 12, 2012
Cause:  Under Investigation               Location:  21 miles south of Payson
Containment: 5 percent                       Fuels:  Grass, chaparral, pinyon pine
Terrain:  Steep, rugged                        Resources:  10 crews, 13 engines, 4 water tenders
Total personnel: 271                            Available air support:  5 helicopters, 6 air tankers

Summary:  Monday morning, strong northeast winds lined up with east facing drainages resulting in active fire behavior along the western edge of the fire.  The smoke column was visible from Phoenix and Payson.  Pushed by these winds, the fire moved into the steep and rugged Mazatzal Wilderness.  In addition, winds put smoke into the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Aided by the same northeast winds, ground and air resources made good progress along the eastern edge of the fire. Fire line along the 201 road was reinforced through burning operations known as black lining.  This activity burns surface fuels along the inside of the fire line, removing those fuels and rapidly widening the fire line.  With a shift of wind direction expected to the south in the days ahead, this action prepares for the movement of the fire in that direction.  Other efforts along this east side kept the fire away from power lines and State Highway 87.

Active fire behavior is expected today.  Dense fuels burning in the vicinity of Saddle Peak in the Mazatzal Wilderness, in the interior of the fire, are expected to generate a large plume.  This will not be cause for public concern.

Additional firefighters and equipment continue to report to the fire.  No structures are threatened at this time. 

Yesterday, Tonto National Forest officials announced a temporary closure due to the Sunflower fire which began on May 12, approximately 21 miles south of Payson, Ariz., west of Hwy. 87.

The closure order is effective beginning 8 am, Tuesday, May 15.  The following is a description of the closure area:

The northern boundary of the closure area starts at the intersection of State Route (SR) 87 and Forest Rd. (FR) 419/Barnhardt Rd, continuing southwest along FR 419 to Forest Trail (FT) 43 to FT 23 to FT 89 to FR 479 to the eastern shore of the Verde River. The western boundary follows the eastern shore of the Verde River from its intersection with FR 479 to the south and continues along the eastern shore of Bartlett Lake to its intersection with FR 393 (Powerline Rd.). The southern boundary follows FR 393 to the west to FR 3456 to the Old State Hwy 87 to where it intersects with SR 87. The eastern boundary follows the west side of SR 87 to the north to its intersection with Fr.  419.  All forest roads and trails included above are also closed (with the exception of SR 87).

Highway 87 will remain open to through traffic.

The purpose of the closure is to provide for public and firefighter health and safety during the management of the incident.

For further information, see the forest website,

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