STRAWBERRY, AZ — A fire near Strawberry has forced evacuations and the shutdown of a popular recreation area.
The "Backbone Fire" started Wednesday night, about 12 miles west of Strawberry near a ridge named Ike's Backbone.
The Gila County Sheriff's Office issued evacuation orders Friday for the towns of Strawberry and Pine. The Fossil Creek recreation area, which includes Waterfall Trail, Irving/Flume, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, Homestead, Sally May, Purple Mountain, and Mazatzal trails, is also closed.
Pine and Strawberry are small towns north of Payson, which is about 100 or so miles northeast of Phoenix.
WILDFIRES WITH EVACUATIONS
RAFAEL FIRE: 78,750 acres, 89% containment
Evacuations: GO: in Coconino County, Sycamore Canyon. SET: in Yavapai County, Loy Ranch. READY: in Coconino County, Garland Prairie South and Garland Prairie North, South of Williams, Sherwood Forest, Camp Navajo, West of I-17 south of 1-40, Westwood Estates, Flagstaff Ranch (including W.L. Gore), Mountain Dell, Pine Del, Forest Highlands, Kachina Village, University Heights, Equestrian Estates, Upper Oak Creek Canyon, West Fork, Lower Oak Creek Canyon, and in Yavapai County, Grey Ranch, Windmill Ranch, Bear Mountain, and Sedona.
BACKBONE FIRE: 40,826 acres, 43% containment
Evacuations: SET: Strawberry, Hunt Ranch, Pine
WYRICK FIRE: 7,592 acres, 76% containment
Evacuations: SET: Antelope Valley, Despain Ranch, Heber-Overgaard, Chevelon Retreat, areas north of State Route 260 and northwest of State Route 277
TELEGRAPH FIRE: 180,725 acres, 89% containment
Evacuations: GO: Dripping Springs, Wind Spirit, Hagen Ranch, Slash S Ranch, Government Springs. READY: El Capitan East and West, Six Shooter, Icehouse Canyons, Superior, Globe, Miami, Claypool, Central Heights, Pinto/Carlotta, Skill Center, Fairgrounds, Schulze Ranch, Ray Mine, Top-of-the-World, Bellevue, Oak Flat, Beverly Hills, Riverside, Kearny, Winkelman, Hayden, Battle Axe area.
PINNACLE FIRE: 34,417 acres, 60% containment
Several evacuees are taking shelter under a hangar at the Payson Airpark.
The owner runs Performance One Motorsports and keeps his equipment there. He decided to open the hangar to those needing a place to stay.
About 22 people, along with six dogs, a cat and guinea pig, are all trying to stay cool. They bought kiddie pools for the adults and pets, hoping that will help during the extreme heat. They also have industrial fans and swamp coolers.
Shelly Parker, who evacuated from Strawberry, says they are all making the most out of the situation.
“We are making the best of it. We’re having snacks and appetizers, kind of like a little happy hour, pool time. Just making the best of what we can of the situation. Taking our minds off what’s going on," says Parker.
Parker is hoping for the best but says she can't help but worry.
"I mean, when we pulled away, I had tears in my eyes kind of like I might not come back to see the cabin. So, that was kind of sad because we’ve made it our home and we love it up there. We’ve met such great people and it’s a wonderful little community so that part of it was very sad but, that’s why we decided to do this to try to make the best of it and hopefully we all get to go home to our cabins in a couple days or less," says Parker.
As of Saturday night the fire has burned about 17,126 acres and is 0% contained.