Arizona Residents Evacuated as Fire Approaches Homes

Residents of a central Arizona rural community were ordered to evacuate Wednesday morning after a lightning-caused wildfire threatened their homes.

All residents of the Pine Flats area south of Mayer were ordered to evacuate by the U.S. Forest Service as the fire grew after first being reported at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. The first crews arrived about 4 a.m., said Debbie Maneely, a spokeswoman for Prescott National Forest.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office was assisting in the effort and an evacuation center was set up at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School in Dewey-Humboldt, spokeswoman Susan Quayle said.

Pine Flats is a wooded valley dotted with about 20 homes and only a few are occupied year-round, Quayle said. However, most are being used at this time of year.

The sheriff's jeep posse moved in to the area after the evacuation order was issued at 7:30 a.m. and is going cabin to cabin getting people out, Quayle said.

Pine Flats is located about seven miles south of State Route 69 about 75 miles north of Phoenix. The state highway is open, but county roads 177 and 52 are closed and the public is being asked to stay away, Quayle said.

"It's very rustic," Quayle said. "I hope we don't lose that little valley because it really is very pretty."

The Battle Fire has burned about 125 acres and is 1 1/2 miles from Pine Flat. The Forest Service has ordered three heavy air tankers and is sending a Type 1 fire team to the area. Those teams are used in the most difficult fires.

"The fire behavior is very extreme right now and there is a lot of dry fuel up there," Maneely said. That plus the risk to homes drove the decision to bring in the elite team.

"And also, we can then release our resources for initial attack, because more lightning is expected," Maneely said.

Elsewhere in Arizona, the Potato fire burning near Heber slopped over containment lines overnight and burned underneath a power line that feeds electricity to Phoenix, said Kartha Ray, a spokeswoman with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Officials were worried that excessive smoke from the fires could cause arcing in the power line. They were deciding Wednesday whether to shut down the line and reroute power to the Phoenix area.

The fire had burned more than 500 acres and was 10 percent contained.

More than 140 firefighters battled the blaze. Two helicopters also dropped water on it.