SHOW LOW, AZ - The Wallow Fire is being compared to the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire that burned near Show Low.
It took weeks for crews to bring Rodeo-Chediski under control, and by that time, 469,000 acres had been charred, giving the fire the dubious title as the state's biggest wildfire in recorded history.
The Wallow Fire now ranks right behind Rodeo-Chediski in terms of size, with no signs of slowing down.
ABC15’s Katie Raml covered the Rodeo-Chediski Fire when nearly 500 buildings were destroyed and 30,000 people from Show Low, Pinetop and Heber were forced out of their homes.
Watch some of her stories from 2002 in the above video player.
That blaze actually started as two separate fires and merged because of fast moving winds and lush vegetation.
Weeks later, White Apache Mountain Tribe member Leonard Gregg admitted to starting the Rodeo Fire.
In an interview, Gregg, who was a contractor for the Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crew, told authorities he’d expected to make money from fighting the fire.
Authorities said Gregg used stick matches to set fire to dry grass in the area, but “did not expect the fire to develop to the degree that it did.”
Gregg was later sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $27,882,502.
The second fire, the Chediski Fire, was allegedly started by stranded motorist Valinda Jo Elliott.
Authorities said Elliott started a small fire to signal a news helicopter after getting lost while hiking. She was able to get the attention of the helicopter, but not before strong winds kicked in, shooting flames into the surrounding area.
Elliott wasn’t criminally prosecuted for starting the fire, because federal prosecutors said there wasn’t “sufficient evidence of criminal intent on her part.”
When it was all said and done, nearly $153 million was spent to fight the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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