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Badger Springs Fire latest fire to snarl traffic along Interstate 17

Badger Springs Fire - BLM
Posted at 4:46 PM, Jun 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 21:28:53-04

PHOENIX — The Badger Springs Fire near Sunset Point is 80% contained after it snarled traffic and forced a roughly six-hour closure of I-17 on Friday.

Officials say the fire is likely human-caused. Just last month, another brush fire near Sunset Point caused long delays northbound on the I-17.

"You could see it was coming up over the hill and we knew why and what was going on," said Kelley Jones, who wound up stuck in traffic during the freeway closure on Friday. "I think the frustration was that we all just wanted to be able to get off sooner, but that's in an ideal world."

The Badger Springs Fire burned roughly 2,500 acres.

"One of the main reasons why the freeway gets shut down when we have a fire of that magnitude up there is both firefighter and public safety," said Rob Roy Williams, the District Fuels Technician with the Bureau of Land Management.

Williams said some of the concerns in a fire like the one that sparked Friday is ensuring fire crews are safe while working along the side of the road, that drivers who may look at the fire don't wreck, and also that drivers aren't put at risk if the fire jumps over the road.

Williams told ABC15 fire crews regularly patrol along the I-17 around Sunset Point in order to quickly respond if a fire breaks out. An increased number of crews are also positioned on higher-traffic days, such as the weekends. During the Summer months, resources are brought in from out of state as a proactive measure.

While there are other mitigation efforts, Williams said prescribed burns to rid the area along I-17 of dry brush is not a feasible option year after year.

"To remove the vegetation that way, it's really not beneficial to the ecosystem," Williams said. "It can definitely change the landscape and potentially cause where there would be even more fires up there."

Williams says responding to incidents like Friday's fire involves collaboration with many other agencies. He encouraged drivers to do their part to avoid sparking a fire, such as being mindful of dragging chains and not tossing cigarettes out the window.

For drivers, perhaps it's just bad luck when a brush fire breaks out and impacts traffic.

"We understood what was going on," Jones said of Friday's backup. "The firefighters and the police were really helpful. They kept us all safe