Woodbury Fire ‘very active’ overnight; high winds complicating effort

Jun 20, 2019, 9:18 AM | Updated: 2:18 pm
(Twitter Photo/@TontoForest)...
(Twitter Photo/@TontoForest)
(Twitter Photo/@TontoForest)

PHOENIX — The Woodbury Fire burning in the Superstition Mountains continued to grow Wednesday night into Thursday, stepping up the threat to residents in the area, authorities said.

Dick Fleishman, Southwest Area Type 1 Management Team spokesman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the fire was 9 miles away from Roosevelt Lake on Thursday morning, having moved about 2 miles closer overnight.

Joshua Beck, a Gila County spokesman, said around 1 p.m. Thursday that the fire had spread closer to only 7 miles away.

“The next three days are going to really test us. The fire last night was very active in Campaign Creek until 2 to 3 in the morning,” Fleishman said.

“Today’s going to be a pretty interesting day with the expected winds.”

Fleishman said the team conducted a burnout operation at a nearby school to protect it from the human-caused blaze that was a mile away.

The Roosevelt Lake Marina said Wednesday it was closing through at least Friday.

Officials on Thursday afternoon issued an evacuation order for residents in the lake area, urging them to leave the area immediately and call 911 if they are unable to.

A temporary shelter was set up at Lee Kornegay School at 4735 S. Ragus Road in Miami. Livestock were being sheltered at Gila County Fairgrounds.

“As this fire moves out of the wilderness area it’s going to start burning down into grasslands, and grasslands burn very flashy, very fast,” Fleishman said.

“Once it hits that, especially with 20 mph winds, it’s going to push to the east rather rapidly as it gets out of the wilderness.”

Residents can sign up here for emergency notifications from Gila County.

The fire, which broke out June 8 and is now up to nearly 50,500 acres, is 41% contained.

Fleishman said more personnel are coming to the scene, with plans to add a night shift. Nearly 900 firefighters are already assigned to the blaze.

“Lot of challenges for us. Lot of values that we are looking to protect as best we can, but our main concern is firefighter safety,” he said.

A 40-mile stretch of State Route 88 between Apache Junction and Roosevelt Lake has been closed since Friday.

The road is closed from Weavers Needle Vista Viewpoint, 2 miles northeast of Apache Junction, to S.R. 188, which runs along the west side of the lake.

On Saturday, the U.S. Forest Service implemented fire restrictions for the entire Tonto National Forest until the Woodbury Fire is no longer a threat.

The restrictions include fires, campfires or charcoal-burning devices outside campsites’ metal fire rings and pedestal grills, the Forest Service said in a press release.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report. 

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Woodbury Fire ‘very active’ overnight; high winds complicating effort