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Tonto National Forest issues closure order due to 18,500-acre blaze

(Facebook Photo/@TontoNationalForest)

PHOENIX — The Tonto National Forest issued a closure order on Monday in response to the Sawtooth Fire which had grown to 18,500 acres overnight.

The lightening-caused blaze in the Superstition Wilderness area was 8% contained on Monday, according to the Tonto National Forest.

There are currently 200 firefighters and multiple air resources deployed to contain the blaze, according to a press release.

“The Sawtooth Fire continues to burn on Arizona State Lands, private land, and the Tonto National Forest, including portions of the Superstition Wilderness area, of The Tonto National Forest,” the release stated.

“Containment efforts are focused on burnout operations for the protection of private property along southern and eastern edges of the fire, near the communities of Elephant Butte, Hardt Tank, and Angel Basin.”

The communities of Elephant Butte, Hardt Tank and Angel Basin were ordered to evacuate Monday morning. Those displaced can relocate to an evacuation shelter at Queen Valley Community Center.

Areas around Peralta Road, Hewitt Station, Rogers Trough and the Woodbury Trailhead have also been closed.

The Sawtooth Fire not is estimated to be contained until June 19, according to InciWeb.

“The lives and safety of the public and firefighters is at the forefront of all our decisions and actions,” says Incident Commander Jim King.

“Our team is working hard to provide structure protection and minimize impact to heritage, recreation, watershed, and wildlife values in the area.”

Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered to the fire, according to the Southwest Coordination Center.

On Sunday, the fire was estimated to have burned 2,500 acres at 0% containment, according to Tonto National Forest officials.

The Arizona Department of Forestry said the fire was burning in all directions and impacting both state and Tonto National Forest land.

Forest officials said it started around two miles northeast of the Peralta Trailhead, which has since been closed.

Five engines, three hotshot crews, two heavy airtankers, two single-engine airtankers and one air attack had originally been assigned to the fire.

“We are assessing the situation at this time, and doing our very best,” Forest Service District Ranger Matthew Lane said in the post.

It is currently the third fire burning around the Valley.

The Ocotillo Fire in Cave Creek started on Saturday and was 67% contained as of Monday afternoon, according to the Arizona State Forestry.

The related evacuation order is set to be lifted Tuesday at noon for affected Cave Creek residents.

Another fire, dubbed as the Sunset Fire, shut down both directions of Interstate-17 on Sunday.

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

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