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San Juan Fire doubles in size to nearly 5,000 acres

VERNON, Ariz. — Fire officials now say the estimated acreage burned in the San Juan Fire in northeastern Arizona’s White Mountains is near 5,000 acres.

The fire doubled in size from earlier Friday.

The San Juan Fire was reported Thursday at about noon in the small southeastern community of Vernon, which is about halfway between Springerville and Show Low. About 2,500 people live there, 200 of whom had left before evacuation orders were put in place in the areas of Red Cabin Ranch, Whiting Homestead and Green Peaks Hideaway. Up to 90 structures reportedly are threatened.

The fire had burned about 100 acres by 2 p.m. Thursday and grew quickly to 2,000 acres, fanned by wind gusts of up to 45 mph, Apache County officials said.

It was burning in a northeasterly direction into the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, where ongoing thinning projects “will definitely help slow down any fire activity,” forest supervisor Jim Zornes said.

County officials said a group of Boy Scouts from Gilbert voluntarily evacuated a camp near Green’s Peak Hideaway and a group of girls voluntarily left a camp south of Vernon.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Sgt. Richard Guinn, Apache County’s Emergency Services Coordinator, said authorities have identified the point of origin in a forest area commonly used by campers about 16 or 17 miles east of Show Low.

Forest officials said a Type II incident management team, the second-highest level available, will take charge of the fire Friday because of the continuous fuels ahead of the blaze.