[Update 7:] ‘Cactus Fire’ burning northeast of Mesa

(Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest)

[April 30 update: The Cactus Fire is at 85 percent containment. “Firefighters, including engines and crews, continue to patrol for hot spots within the fire’s perimeter. Additional fire personnel are being released to return to their normal duties. Full containment is still expected on Monday, May 1. The fire area has many dead trees that have been weakened by fire and pose a safety concern for firefighters.  There is minimal smoke visible in the interior of the fire, however logs lying on the ground may put up small smokes for the next few days. The Bush Highway is open; however, we continue to remind visitors not to stop along the road or pull off to the shoulder between Power and the Usery Park roads for the safety of firefighters working in the area.  The area north of the Bush Highway along that stretch remains closed to all entry, including Granite Reef and Phon D Sutton Day-use recreation sites and is being patrolled to assure the public is not in the fire area,” according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 29 update: “Fire crews successfully held fire lines yesterday and will start mopping-up hot spots deeper into the interior of the fire.  Containment increased today to 65 percent and the fire perimeter remains at 818 acres.  The weather has improved, cooler and less windy.  Weather forecasts for the next few days are favorable. Fire personnel are starting to be released to be available should a new start occur.  There is minimal smoke visible in the interior of the fire, however logs lying on the ground may put up small smokes for the next few days.  Containment on the Cactus Fire is still expected on Monday, May 1. The Bush Highway is open, however, visitors are again reminded not to stop along the road, or pull off to the shoulder between Power and the Usery Park roads.  The area north of the Bush Highway along that stretch is closed, including Granite Reef and Phon D Sutton Day-use recreation sites.  Continue to be on the watch for firefighters and equipment working in the area,” according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 28 second update: “Fire crews were successful holding the current fire lines through the wind event today.  The Cactus Fire is still showing 40 percent containment.  The total outside perimeter of the fire is 818 acres while actual burned area is mapped at 465 acres, emphasizing no new fire growth.  The 818 acres represents the fire perimeter within the natural and man-made holding features.  The windy conditions have caused ash to blow through the fire area, which may look like smoke, however there was no new fire growth today.  The fire continues to smolder in logs lying on the ground.  Containment on the Cactus Fire is currently expected on Monday, May 1. The Bush Highway is open, has reopened to the public, however the temporary closure for the Cactus Fire remains in place.  Continue to use caution in the area as firefighters and equipment are still working in the area,” according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 28 update: “Firefighters will spend the day reinforcing fire lines and making sure hot spots near the fire line are put out.  The Cactus Fire remains at approximately 500 acres and containment has increased to 40 percent.  Firefighters are in place should winds cause hot embers to blow over current containment lines. The Bush Highway has reopened to the public.  Please slow down as you drive on the Bush Highway between Power and Usery Park roads.  Firefighters and equipment are still working and driving through the area. A temporary area closure for the Cactus Fire was put in place on Thursday, April 27.  It includes the Granite Reef and Phon D. Sutton Recreation sites and the area in between them from the northern edge of Bush Highway to the Salt River.  Coon Bluff will not reopen until Bush Highway reopens. The public is asked to be extra careful during these windy conditions.  Please make sure your campfire is cold to the touch before leaving it, safety tow chains do not drag on the ground, pull off the road onto the shoulder onto bare soil, where hot engines do not ignite dry grass, and practice safe target shooting.  Additional tips and information can be found on the One Less Spark webpage.  Help firefighters by preventing Wildfires,” according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 27 second update: Firefighters spent today reinforcing the containment lines and did not experience any spot fires across the fire lines despite windy conditions.  The Cactus Fire has grown to approximately 500 acres and is now 30 percent contained.  The area has not yet been mapped, so the acreage remains an estimate and will likely change once the fire perimeter is mapped.  Firefighters continue to protect developed recreation sites, kept the fire away from utility lines and have successfully kept the fire south of the Salt River and preventing the fire from moving south and east toward Mesa neighborhoods. Areas of unburned fuels in the interior of the fire area may continue to put up smoke as they burn.  Forecasted windy conditions for Friday remain a concern. The Bush Highway remains closed between Power and Usery Pass roads to allow firefighters to work along the highway. Maricopa County Department of Transportation will assess the damage to Bush Highway tomorrow so they can determine when it will be safe to reopen the road. An area closure for the Cactus Fire was put in place today.  It includes the Granite Reef and Phon D. Sutton Recreation sites and the area in between them from the northern edge of Bush Highway to the Salt River.  Coon Bluff will not reopen until Bush Highway reopens, according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 27 update: Firefighters worked Wednesday night to secure fire lines along the north and east side of the fire.  The Cactus Fire has grown to 500 acres and is now 30 percent contained.  The acreage estimate is on a visual estimate and will likely change as a more accurate fire perimeter is mapped.  Personnel assigned to the fire, have been able to protect the developed recreation sites, have kept the fire away from utility lines and have successfully kept the fire south of the Salt River and north of Mesa neighborhoods. There are areas of unburned fuels in the interior of the fire area, which may continue to put up smoke as they burn.  Concerns over the next two days are for the return of windy conditions on Thursday afternoon and Friday.  Firefighters are watching for spot fires and reinforcing the fire line. The Bush Highway remains closed between Power and Usery Pass roads to allow firefighters to work along the highway.  Three popular day–use recreation sites are currently closed because of the Cactus Fire:  Granite Reef, Coon’s Bluff, and Phon D Sutton.  The highway closure is not expected to last through the weekend, however an area closure may be implemented to allow firefighters to continue fire suppression efforts, which includes moving and parking equipment in the developed recreation sites, according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

[April 26 update: The Cactus Fire is burning on the Tonto National Forest approximately 4 miles northeast of the edge of Mesa.  Hotshot crews, multiple engines and a helicopter are assigned to the incident with the objective of protecting developed recreation sites, utility infrastructure, cultural resources and to prevent the fire from moving across the Salt River. At this time, the fire is moving away from communities and fire spread to the south and east toward Mesa is not expected.  Firefighters have not seen any Salt River horses in the immediate vicinity of the fire.  The estimated fire size is 200 acres, which is based on a visual estimate and will likely change as a more accurate fire perimeter can be mapped. The Bush Highway remains closed between Power and Usery Park roads to allow firefighters to work along the highway.  Three popular day–use recreation sites are currently closed because of the Cactus Fire:  Granite Reef, Coon’s Bluff, and Phon D Sutton. Containment is 10 percent; fuels are riparian river bottom with mesquite, salt cedar and cactus, according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.]

The Cactus Fire, reported the afternoon of Tuesday, April 25, is about 16 miles northeast of Mesa.  This fire is human-caused and is under investigation, according to Carrie E. Templin, public affairs officer for the Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest.

“The Cactus Fire has burned approximately 25 acres near the Phon D Sutton Day Use Area.  The fire is burning along the river bottom in the Tonto National Forest putting up smoke that may be seen in the east valley.  Fire crews and engines responded and are working to contain the fire.  No infrastructure is threatened at the current time.  Gusty afternoon winds challenged firefighter efforts yesterday afternoon.  Additional firefighters and fire engines are arriving today to assist in the fire suppression effort,” she said in a press release.

The Bush Highway, which leads to several popular recreation sites along the Lower Salt River, is temporarily closed between Power Road and the four-way stop at Usery Park Road.  The public is asked to assist firefighters by staying out of the area, Ms. Templin said in the release.

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