Gladiator Fire keeps crews busy, prompts Crown King evacuations

CROWN KING, AZ - Fire officials say a wildfire burning in the historic mining community of Crown King has grown to 1,500 acres in northern Arizona.

The previous update from Monday night was 1,300 acres.

Ten aircraft are planned for aerial attacks Tuesday. Crews are planning for perimeter control and suppression, but plans could change due to high winds.

SEE PHOTOS OF THE GLADIATOR FIRE

NOTE: A community meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mayer High School in Spring Valley.

Crews battling the flames are being warned of rattle snakes, wind gusts up to 45 mph, and abandoned mines.

Two firefighters have been hurt so far with minor injuries. One was burned, and the other was dehydrated.

As of 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, there is zero-percent containment.

Prescott National Forest spokeswoman Debbie Maneely said that the Gladiator Fire, about four miles north of the mountain town of Crown King, has destroyed two buildings and one trailer after charring 1,500 acres.

The wind-fueled fire ignited Sunday on private land next to the Prescott National Forest in the Bradshaw Mountains, north of Phoenix.

Maneely said the blaze posed additional threats to forest service campgrounds, lookout towers, power lines and historic sites within the forest. 

Expected hot and windy weather could make containment difficult, Maneely said.

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An evacuation order is in effect, and Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said many residents have evacuated.

He said as of Monday afternoon 12 homes were still occupied by about 30 residents.

D'Evelyn said as of 3:45 p.m. Monday, the shelter at Mayer High School was empty with many residents staying with family and friends. The Red Cross will continue to maintain shelter operations.

The fires follow a recent warning from state land managers that hot temperatures and dry vegetation have created a very high fire risk in some areas.

Billowing smoke from the fire and another one to the west near Crown King could be seen in Phoenix, more than 50 miles south.

Authorities set up a command center in front of the Crown King General Store, where owner Carol Boles was making sandwiches for firefighters Sunday evening.

"Some of these guys didn't get their dinner before they were called up here," she said.

Crown King is a popular destination for all-terrain vehicles because of its numerous hills and gorges.

Greg Flores, owner of The Prospector shopping center and president of the Crown King Chamber of Commerce, said he helped a couple and their pug dog flee during a house fire.

It wasn't immediately clear if the house was the one where authorities say the wildfire began.

"The whole house was fully engulfed," Flores said, adding, "There were flames over 100 feet tall when we got up there."

Flores and his wife had to leave their home around 2 a.m. Monday after ash began raining down. They spent the night on the floor in the store and have since been able to return home.

The fire overtook a portion of Crown King Road, making the road to the mountain town inaccessible, a sheriff's office statement said.

The state's other large fire, in an area more than 120 miles east of Phoenix, was spotted Saturday in Tonto National Forest, where it burned about four square miles. The Sunflower Fire is about 20 miles south of Payson , a gateway town to mountains popular among Arizona campers.

The fire was moving northeast toward a wilderness area, Tonto National Forest spokesman David Albo said. No structures were threatened and the fire hasn't prompted evacuations. Authorities have yet to determine a cause.

Crews were also at a blaze believed to be sparked by lightning on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona. No structures were threatened by that fire, which has charred more than 480 acres.

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