“Bush Fire” closes SR 87 northeast of Phoenix

Evacuations are in effect

(UPDATED at 6:30 p.m. MDT June 15, 2020)

3-D Map of the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix
3-D Map of the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix looking southwest. The red line was the perimeter at 11:25 p.m. MDT June 14, 2020. The green line was the additional growth through 1:24 pm MDT June 15, 2020.

Monday afternoon the Incident Management Team on the Bush Fire announced that it had burned 37,900 acres.

For all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix including the most recent, click here.

(UPDATED at 3:13 p.m. MDT June 15, 2020)

Bush Fire Map Phoenix Arizona wildfire
Map showing the perimeter of the Bush Fire at 11:25 p.m. MDT June 14, 2020.

Here is a zoomed-in version of the map showing the location of the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix at 11:25 p.m. MDT June 14, 2020. The data is from a fixed wing mapping aircraft.

For all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix including the most recent, click here.

(UPDATED at 1:13 p.m. MDT June 15, 2020)

Bush Fire, northeast of Phoenix
Bush Fire, northeast of Phoenix, June 14, 2020. Inciweb photo.

At 9:46 a.m. MST on Monday a notice from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office said, “The Tonto Basin and Punkin Center area are being evacuated. If you need to travel into the evacuated areas to remove livestock and or property you will be allowed to do so.”

A notice from the Sheriff’s office also reported, “Highway 87 from the Bush Highway M/P 199 north bound and south bound to BIA 101 entrance to the Matazal Casino in Payson is closed due to the fire on Highway 87. Only local traffic will be permitted. Residents in the local areas i.e. Rye, Gisela, Deer Creek, Ox Bow will be permitted to travel into Payson and return home. The Junction of Highway 87 and Highway 188 is closed. Highway 188 to the Roosevelt Dam is closed.”

The weather is not helping the firefighters. The forecast for the fire area on Monday is for temperatures of 81 to 91, relative humidity 12 to 17 percent, and no chance of rain. The winds will become southwesterly at 6 to 15 mph by the late morning/early afternoon. Gusts of 20-25 mph will occur over most of the mountain range, but ridgetops could see gusts nearing 30 mph. Monday night the winds will be southwest at 5 to 10 mph.

(UPDATED at 7:10 a.m. MDT June 15, 2020)

Bush Fire map
Bush Fire Permeter at 11:25 p.m. MDT June 14, 2020.
bush fire phoenix
Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by James Stamsek, June 14, 2020.

The Bush Fire was mapped at 36,257 acres Sunday night. We will post more about this fire later.

(Originally published at 9:36 a.m. MDT June 14, 2020)

Bush Fire Highway 87 Phoenix
Map showing the approximate location of the “Bush Fire” north of Mesa, Arizona. If light fuels burned and then cooled before being detected by the next satellite overflight, the fire could be larger than shown.

Both lanes of State Route 87 are closed northeast of Phoenix, Arizona due to a vegetation fire that was unfortunately named “Bush Fire”.

The northbound lanes are closed at Bush Highway at milepost 199, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. The southbound highway is currently closed at State Route 188.

There is no estimated time to reopen. Drivers are encouraged to use an alternate route, such as US 60 and SR 188 through Globe, or delay travel if possible.

Bush Fire Highway 87 Phoenix
Bush Fire, June 13, 2020. Tonto National Forest photo.
Bush Fire Highway 87 Phoenix
Bush Fire, June 13, 2020. Tonto National Forest photo.


Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

38 thoughts on ““Bush Fire” closes SR 87 northeast of Phoenix”

    1. The term “bush fire” is a generic term that is commonly used to refer to almost all vegetation fires in Australia. Another example of using a generic term for a fire was “Camp Fire”, which killed 84 people in Paradise, California November 8, 2018 and destroyed more than 18,000 structures.

        1. The Camp Fire got the name from the nearby Camp Creek Road, but it was still an awkward name for a fire.

      1. No one is being dirty. Giving a fire a name that is a commonly used term, makes it awkward to write about. Bush fire is a generic term that describes almost every vegetation fire in Australia. Camp Fire is another example.

        It it A bush fire, or is it THE Bush Fire. Is it A camp fire, or is it THE Camp Fire.

      1. It’s because it started close to the Bush Highway which is named for a Mesa lumberman, Harvey Granville Bush, who advocated for the highway in the late 1920 and early 1930s. It was originally the main road to Payson, coming through Tonto Basin.

  1. For those needing to get to the Payson area from Phoenix the two choices are to go up I-17 to Camp Verde and over or go through Globe .

    1. The fire has burned in and around the highway. It’s the west flank at this point. Maybe they’ll be able to open it in a day or two depending on how the fire moves. BUT, Jakes Corner (on 188 close to 87) and Sunflower are at Set status. It’s just not safe right now.

  2. I found this article and am wondering why Arizona doesn’t have this kind of aerial fire suppression equipment on standby. It sure seems that it would be cheaper than letting a car fire on Hwy 87 (I was told by a friend he saw the woman standing near her burning car), get out of control and burn tens of thousands of acres and then have to pay to deploy hundreds of people to try to contain it and probably end up spending the money to use aircraft later anyway. We know there are always going to be plenty of thoughtless people who throw their cigarettes out the window and there will be one unfortunate thing after the next on top of that starting fires along the highways. By this day and age, why don’t we have the means to respond faster and stop these fires while they’re still small when they’re so much cheaper to extinguish?

    During summer months, the Department of Forestry and Fire Management contracts with commercial aviation assets, including specialized single engine firefighting air tankers and other fixed wing aircraft for tactical, reconnaissance, and firefighting support. The agency operates this contracted fleet of firefighting aircraft from localized airports incorporating specialized mobile support equipment for Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) operations.

    SEATs can operate from smaller, shorter and mostly non-congested municipal runways. Effective pre-positioning of these smaller, specialized aircraft, and closer to the fire risk areas, allow for the rapid response and deployment of aerial fire retardant drops on wildfires. This close support and fast action keeps fires smaller and results in lower firefighting costs.

    1. Is it possible, Dan, that the 17 other wildfires across Arizona that were burning before the Bush Fire, were already using up the resources available in this state?

      1. Very possibly, Michael. But it begs the question, why were those allowed to grow so large before trying to stop them? Maybe, even with fire lookouts and satellites, we aren’t capable of spotting fires early enough. Or maybe they want to let some fires go and burn out the overgrown underbrush but then they blow up and get away from them. I don’t know but I’m curious.

  3. I was told 188 is now closed is this true? I want to get home to Payson. The other choice is I 17 through camp Verde.

    1. Yes, 188 is closed and 87 is closed southbound at Payson. You’ll need to go via I-17 although you might be able to go via Globe and Young – not sure on that part. Stay safe.

  4. Could this fire potentially have to evacuate Tonto Basin or Punkin Center. I can see a lot of smoke where I am.

  5. My bad, I saw that they already evacuated sections of Tonto Basin and Punkin center, but the area where I’m at specifically, there is no evacuations.

    1. Plan on going through Globe via 60 instead of coming through Payson. Maybe they can get a lane or two of the Beeline open (perhaps one lane each way in the southbound) but I wouldn’t count on it.

  6. It’s really starting to look bad where I am. You can hardly breathe outside. My family and I have decided that we better pack up to leave even though there is no evacuation order where we are.

  7. If you are referring to the Black Canyon Rim campgrounds in Apache Sitgreaves NF, then you might see and smell smoke, but you will be pretty far from the fire.

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