San Juan Fire evacuations lifted; containment at 70 percent - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

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San Juan Fire evacuations lifted; containment at 70 percent

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VERNON, AZ (CBS5) -

Mandatory evacuations were lifted for three areas in the vicinity of the San Juan Fire in the White Mountains on Wednesday.

"We are pleased to announce the evacuation order for the communities of Red Cabin Ranch, Whiting Homestead and Carlock Ranch will be lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday. This includes the pre-evacuation notices for Greens Peak Hideaway and Hidden Meadows," said Incident Commander Matt Reidy.

The mandatory evacuations were ordered as the fire exploded on June 26.

The nearly 7,000-acre fire straddling the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the White Mountains was 70 percent contained by Wednesday night, fire officials said.

Dry lightning and thunderstorms were still in the forecast for the area Thursday.

The wildfire is burning south of the town of Vernon, halfway between Springerville and Show Low, in northeast Arizona. More than 600 personnel are assigned to fight the fire.

Fire officials said burnout operations to remove fuel between fire lines and the main body of the fire were completed, and crews were mopping up hot spots elsewhere.

The American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter closed a shelter at Round Valley Middle School at the intersection of South Harless Street and West Second Avenue in Eager on Monday because no one had used the shelter.

Lucy Walsh of the Red Cross said the shelter would be reopened if necessary.

The wildfire was reported just before 12 p.m. June 26, and the fire grew from an initial 100 acres to 2,000 acres by 5 p.m. that day, according to officials with Apache Sitgreaves National Forest.

Officials said the fire is human-caused, but the exact cause is still under investigation.

According to the White Mountain Independent, between 200 to 300 Boy Scouts from Gilbert were in the White Mountains when the fire started.

Matthew Wright was with the group and an additional 100 adults and chaperones who were camping in the area. A group of them split off and headed for a ridge at about 9,000 feet and noticed the smoke. They then went back to base camp and told the others it was time to go.

"Our base camp kids, 12- to 13-year-olds, were still at base camp only about four miles from the fire, and it was encroaching," he said. "We were 11 miles away from them, the 14- through 18-year-olds and the leaders, so we had to get back into our vehicles, repack canoes, get rappelling equipment, (do a) head count before we could leave. We had to leave in phases."

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Spokeswoman Pam Baltimore said that agency took command mid-morning on June 27.

The following roads are closed to traffic:

  • Forest Service Road 224 at Forest Service Road 267 junction
  • Apache County Road 3140 at the Carlock Ranch junction
  • Forest Service Road 117 at US 60
  • Forest Service Road 117 at Highway 260
  • Forest Service Road 117 at Forest Service Road 61
  • Apache County Road 3140 at Apache County Road 3261

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest has issued the following closures.

  • Forest Road 283 at its intersection with Apache County Road 3144, east along the southern side on County Road 3144 to the forest boundary
  • East along the forest boundary to Forest Road 271
  • North along Forest Road 217 to Forest Road 283
  • North along Forest Road 283 to the intersection of County Road 3144

Violators could be fined up to $10,000.

If you have questions, call the Apache County Sheriff's Office at 928-337-4321.

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on this developing story.

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