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Here are the 5 largest wildfires in Arizona history

(InciWeb Photo)

PHOENIX – The Bush Fire roaring through national forest land northeast of metro Phoenix is already the fifth-largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Fire officials said Monday morning the blaze’s footprint had grown to 186,086 acres.

Less than a week after igniting, the Bush Fire had grown larger than the Woodbury Fire, which consumed 123,875 acres in the Superstition Mountains in 2019.

Here are the five largest wildfires in state history:

5. Bush Fire, 2020

Bush Fire

(InciWeb Photo)


The active blaze eating up Tonto National Forest vegetation was caused by a vehicle fire June 13 and has led to evacuations in multiple communities.

It also caused a long-term closure of State Route 87 — the main highway between Phoenix and Payson — and shut down other roads and recreation areas.

No injuries were reported as of Monday, and no structures were damaged.

4. Horseshoe Two Fire, 2011

(Southwest Incident Management Team Photo)

Part of the Coronado National Forest in the Chiricahua Mountains was set on fire by human hands May 8. Officials said 222,954 acres of scrub, oak pine and desert grassland burned in Cochise County and 23 structures went up.

There were no deaths, even though two firefighters were trapped in a house they had broken into for safety, Wildfire Today wrote.

3. Cave Creek Complex Fire, 2005

(AP Photo)

A double lightning strike set off a fire that would swallow 243,950 acres spread across Maricopa and Yavapai counties. The fire near Pine burned June 21 until July 7, starting near Butte Peak in Scottsdale and Humboldt Peak in nearby Tonto National Forest.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency helped with funding for the portion in the forest, after the fire threatened 440 homes in Tonto Hills and Camp Creek.

At least 11 structures were ruined.

2. Rodeo-Chediski Fire, 2002

(U.S. Forest Service Photo)

Both fires were intentionally set and combined to destroy 468,638 acres and nearly 500 homes in Gila and Navajo counties. The Rodeo Fire was started June 18, by a firefighter looking for work.

The Chediski Fire began two days after that, when a hiker whose car had run out of gas set a fire to get the attention of a news helicopter pilot on the way to the Rodeo Fire.

In all, 426 structures were lost.

Rodeo fire starter Leonard Gregg was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2004 but was released in 2011, the White Mountain Independent reported.

A study from the U.S. Forest Service said it would take years for ecosystem resources to right themselves.

1. Wallow Fire, 2011

(AP Photo)

The biggest fire in state history wiped out 538,049 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Alpine. Two campers accidentally started the fire May 29 in Apache County’s White Mountains. The unattended campfire initially consumed vegetation there before high winds accelerated it into Graham, Greenlee and Navajo counties, finally stopping in New Mexico.

The fire destroyed 72 structures and 16 people were injured.

That fire was burning at the same time as the Horseshoe Two.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross, who has covered the majority of the state’s biggest fires, was flying back from Dallas one night in May that year.

“I could see (the fires) from the plane,” he said. “It looked like the world was on fire.”

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

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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