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Wildfire season already eating way through Arizona brush

(National Wildfire Coordinating Group Photo)

PHOENIX — The heart of Arizona’s wildfire season has arrived with a vengeance.

More than 850 wildfires have been recorded across the state this year with more than 130,000 acres burned. There are almost 30 fires currently burning. With hotter and drier conditions coming, Arizona State Forester Jeff Whitney said, “A wildfire knows no boundaries.

“… As we hustle to fight these fires, we ask the public to do their part and be vigilant around fire and proactive around their properties.”

Two wildfires of greatest concern were the Highline Fire north of Payson and the Lizard Fire in southeast Arizona.

Sandra Lopez with the Type 1 Incident Management Team said firefighters were working around the clock to stop the 750 acre Highline Fire. The fire is burning in grass, brush, heavy, dead and down Ponderosa pine and mixed conifer.

No evacuations have been ordered. A pre-evacuation notification was in effect for residents in the Bonita Creek Canyon.

The fire is burning in the 1990 Dude Fire scar. Six firefighters died in that blaze north of Payson.

Lopez said the forecast for Monday was more wind and hot, dry weather. Fuel moisture remained critically low. Smoke was expected to remain visible.

A Coconino National Forest closure order was going into effect soon. The estimated closure area runs from the boundary between the Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests, west along Forest Road 300 to Forest Road 95 north, Forest Road 96 to the east and along Forest Road 137b to the forest boundary.

That included Knoll Lake, portions of the Cabin Loop Trail System and General Crook Trail.

The Lizard Fire in southeast Arizona has grown to almost 15,000 acres in the Dragoon Mountain Range and has reached 15 percent containment. About 30 homes in Cochise Stronghold have been evacuated with none lost.

Approximately 600 firefighters were being headed up by another Type 1 Incident Command Team.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary flight restriction because of the Lizard and Highline fires.

The use of unmanned aircraft systems, aka drones, is illegal.

Firefighting aircraft, rotor or fixed wing, are immediately grounded if a drone is detected. This can result in loss of property and even loss of life for which the drone operator could be held responsible.

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