Firefighters making progress on the Bush Fire east of Phoenix

The fire has grown to 184,086 acres

(UPDATED at 4:50 p.m. MDT June 22, 2020)

Firefighters are starting to get a pretty good handle on the Bush Fire. The perimeter has not changed in a couple of days and any smoke seen is from previously unburned interior islands or firefighters cleaning up the edges by burnout out to remove fuel that is new the firelines. The latest mapping shows it has burned 184,086 acres.

The Central Fire north of Phoenix east of New River, Arizona spread to the east Sunday to the top of New River Mesa, growing to 4,517 acres according to a mapping flight at 12:08 a.m Monday. More information about that fire is on Wildfire Today.

Central Fire Bush Bighorn Arizona wildfire map
3-D map showing the Central Fire which was mapped at 12:08 a.m. MDT June 22, 2020. The Bush and Bighorn Fires can be seen in the distance.
Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.

More photos of the DC-10 on the Central Fire.

(UPDATED at 11:13 a.m. MDT June 20, 2020)

map Bush Fire Arizona Phoenix wildfire
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:33 p.m. MDT June 19. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Firefighters on Friday made more progress in tying in the east edge of the Bush Fire along Highway 188 north of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. On Saturday they will be burning along the SR 87 / Beeline Highway to create a buffer for fire backing downslope from the top of Mount Ord. Firefighters are using aerial ignition from helicopters to help slowly back the fire downslope to minimize post-fire impacts in the area.

A fixed wing mapping flight Friday night at 11:33 MDT determined that the fire had burned 174,397 acres, a 24-hour increase of 23,397 acres.

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

map Bush Fire Arizona Phoenix wildfire
Vicinity map of the Bush Fire east of Phoenix. The red line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 11:33 p.m. MDT June 19. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

On the southeast side, smoke will also be visible as the fire continues to burn a large pocket of unburned vegetation within the fire’s interior.

Dee Hines, an Information Officer for the Bush Fire, said firefighters are allowing the south edge of the fire north of Apache Lake and the Salt River to naturally back slowly down the hill. Mr. Hines described the terrain as steep, rough, and rocky and the fire behavior as “creeping”.

The wind has moderated over the last couple of days, allowing firefighters to make significant progress on the huge fire. That trend is expected to continue through Tuesday with daytime breezes out of the southwest or west at 5 to 10 mph. But it being the desert, temperatures will be over 100 degrees in the lower elevations with relative humidity in the single digits. And there’s no chance of rain.

Areas that remain under “Go” evacuation notices include Brownsville, Jake’s Corner, Slate Creek, Pioneer Pass, Tonto Basin, Punkin Center, Sunflower, and residents and visitors to Apache Lake.

Firefighting resources assigned to the fire include 19 hand crews, 41 engines, 5 bulldozers, 19 water tenders, and 7 helicopters for a total of 759 personnel.

(Originally published at 8:58 a.m. MDT June 19, 2020)

Bush Fire map June 19, 2020 wildfire Arizona Phoenix Jakes Corner
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:18 p.m. MDT June 18. The yellow line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 11:49 p.m. MDT June 17. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:24 a.m. MDT June 19.

Over the last few days firefighters on the Bush Fire have dropped back to Highway 188 and initiated backfire and burnout tactics. After the fire made a run several days ago spreading rapidly downhill almost reaching the highway, they began using fire to remove the fuel near the highway allowing the flames to move up and merge with the main fire.

Judging from imagery collected by a fixed wing mapping aircraft and later a satellite at 3:24 a.m. Friday, it appears that they are close to completing that mission, a limited mission, of stopping the portion of the fire along Highway 188 on the east side of the fire. After they get it completely fired out along the highway, then they will need to hold those 28 miles of fireline between Jakes Corner (at the intersection of Highway 188 and 87) and the Lake Theodore Roosevelt dam.

Firefighters will still have two other large sections of the fire to secure: the 15 miles of Highway 87 south of Jakes Corner to Sunflower, and approximately 20 miles along the Salt River and Apache Lake on the south side. If the weather cooperates the piece north of Sunflower should not be very difficult to fire out after the east side is taken care of. The area along the river is very rugged and difficult to access, and there is a chance the fire could ignite spot fires across the river, which would be a whole new ball game in difficult country. The fire has been very active five miles west of Roosevelt near the river.

The fire is 12 miles south of Payson, 17 miles northeast of Mesa, and 28 miles northwest of Globe.

Thursday the fire grew by another 36,134 acres to bring the total up to 151,075 acres according to data collected on the 11:18 p.m. MDT June 18 mapping flight. The firing operations on the north side will add thousands more.

Helicopter drop Bush Fire wildfire Arizona
Helicopter drop on the Bush Fire June 18, 2020. InciWeb photo.

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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.

7 thoughts on “Firefighters making progress on the Bush Fire east of Phoenix”

  1. Thank you firefighters! So, where is the slurry tanker – haven’t seen that plane yet!

  2. Please be careful. I no longer live there but feel for all of you. I hope everyone stays safe especially the firefighters. You are amazing people.

  3. Thank you firefighters for all you do. Your job can’t be easy, but know you are appreciated.
    Bless you all.

    1. Thank you firefighters for all the hard efforts you are doing. GOD BLESS YOU ????. Be safe as you possibly can.

  4. I had hiked in the area on many of the trails. It will take some time to recover after the fire. Last time it rained in Phoenix was in Mid March. I would presume the same in Payson.

  5. Thank you to all the Firefighters!!!
    Bless you and stay safe… prayers for you and your efforts to get this monster ? under control.


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