PINETOP, AZ - Crews made good progress overnight fighting a wildfire that sparked in eastern Arizona Thursday that has so far burned 2,500 acres and is threatening 35 structures in the area.
According to tweets sent out by Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, the fire laid down overnight, but as of 6:30 a.m. was picking back up.
The San Juan Fire was reported just before noon west of Cerro Gordo near Pinetop, according to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. It grew from 100 acres to more than 2,000 in a matter of hours.
Authorities say the fire, just southeast of Pinetop, is moving in a north easterly direction on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the Red Cabin Ranch subdivision, Whiting Homestead, Greens Peak Hideaway and Negro Knob, according to Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
Thirty-five structures in the surrounding area are currently threatened by the flames.
The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Round Valley Middle School (126 West 2nd Street) in Eager, Ariz. to support the evacuees of Red Cabin Ranch, Greens Peak Hideaway and the Whiting Homestead.
A team consisting of four hotshot crews, air attack, a lead plane, a Round Valley Helitack, 1 Seat, Cibecue Fuels, two Type 3 engines, two bulldozers and five heavy air tankers are fighting the fire.
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. However, the cause of the fire remains under investigation."
Pamela Baltimore, spokeswoman for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, said crews had conducted "forest thinning" operations which involves cutting trees down to the stumps, prior to the start of the fire. She said this helps prevent the fire from crowning.
This forces the flames to pass by the tree stumps without burning anything and helps the fire lose its fuel source, she said.