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Bush Fire surges overnight, nears top 10 for Arizona’s largest wildfires

(Facebook Photo/Bush Fire Info)

PHOENIX – The Bush Fire northeast of metro Phoenix surged overnight and is fast becoming one of the largest wildfires in Arizona history.

The blaze’s footprint in the Tonto National Forest between Fountain Hills and Roosevelt Lake expanded to 64,513 acres with 0% containment by Tuesday morning, according to forest officials, making it the largest current wildfire in the nation.

At 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, State Route 188 was closed in both directions from State Route 87 to roughly 10 miles east of Roosevelt.

At 3:20 p.m., the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office issued its second evacuation order order of the day for the area of Apache Lake along State Route 87 to the Tonto Basin.

Just before noon, the MCSO issued an evacuation order for residents in the Sunflower area off State Route 87. Sunflower is an unincorporated community about 30 miles northeast of Fountain Hills.

The evacuation route was northbound on SR 87 toward Payson, where the Red Cross was setting up at the Payson Police Department Training Center (303 N. Beeline Highway).

The Red Cross has also set up an evacuation center for people displaced by the fire at Lee Kornegay Intermediate School in Miami.

Tuesday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced the fire’s growth had forced the closure of State Route 88 near Apache Lake.

The road was closed in both directions between mileposts 229 and 242 with no estimated time of reopening, according to a press release.

A day earlier, about 1,500 people in Punkin Center and Tonto Basin were evacuated because of the fire, which was reported at 37,000 acres Monday night.

Earlier Monday, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office raised the alert level for residents in Jakes Corner and Sunflower to “set,” the highest level before an evacuation order.

No structure damage has been reported.

The Bush Fire is on the verge of the top 10 for largest wildfires in state history. No. 10 is the Murphy Complex Fire, which consumed 68,078 acres near Rio Rico in 2011, according to KTAR News 92.3 FM research.

State Route 87 (Beeline Highway) remains closed between Payson and the Bush Highway because of the Bush Fire, which was ignited Saturday by a vehicle fire.

In addition, State Route 188 is closed from highways 87 to 88 near Roosevelt Lake.

Recreation areas in the area have also been closed.

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

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