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Wildfire Near Fossil Creek Grows, No Current Threat To Communities

Coconino National Forest

6 p.m. UPDATE: The Gila County Sheriff's Office has issued evacuation orders for the comunities of Pine, Strawberry and Hunts Ranch as the fire has moved across Fossil Creek. An evacuation center has been opened at Rim Country Middle School. State Route 260 has been closed between Camp Verde and SR 87. 

A wildfire reported Wednesday night near Fossil Creek has grown to 6,000 acres with no containment. The blaze forced the evacuation of campers but officials say it isn’t currently threatening any local communities. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Coconino National Forest officials say the Backbone Fire is actively burning in dry chaparral, brush and grass near the convergence of Fossil Creek and the Verde River. Firefighter access to the area is limited because of the rugged terrain, and managers are using two tankers and other aircraft to try to halt its advance.

The wildfire is about 12 miles west of Strawberry, and though it isn’t threatening the community, officials urge residents to always be ready for an evacuation. Firefighters are focusing on preventing the blaze from crossing Fossil Creek so it doesn’t move toward homes and other structures. The Fossil Creek recreation area is closed because of the fire. Its cause is unknown.

Several other wildfires are burning across the state amid very hot and dry conditions. The Telegraph Fire burning near Superior has now become one of the largest in Arizona history.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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