Photos: Gladiator Fire near Crown King, Ariz. is growing rapidly


by Steve Bodinet & David Baker

Video reports by Jared Dillingham & Carina Soon

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 6:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 15 at 9:39 PM

Gladiator Fire
1,700 acres
Human Cause; started from a house fire on private property
Time/Date Started:
Sunday, May 13 at 11:00 am
Community of Crown King
Values of Risk:
Crown King & Horsethief Basin; threats posed include campgrounds, lookout towers, communitcation sites, power lines and historic sites within the forest
Steep, rugged, difficult access
3 Type-1 Crews, 4 Type-2 Crews, 11 Engines, 3 Type-1 Helicopters, 1 Type-3 Helicopter, 6 Type-1 Airtankers, Air attack
Map: Gladiator Fire

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CROWN KING, Ariz. -- Near record heat, strong winds and low humidity have turned out to be a dangerous combination, fueling several wildfires in Arizona on Tuesday.

At least five fires are burning in Arizona. The two that are prompting the biggest concern are the Gladiator Fire near Crown King, and the Sunflower Fire near Payson.

Fire crews fighting the Gladiator Fire are having to deal with the tough terrain on the Bradshaw Mountains, but their number one enemy is the wind.

"Right now what we're seeing is it's moving quite a bit with the winds," said Karen Takai with the Type 1 firefighting team. The wildfire has now burned 1,700 acres since it started on Sunday. There is zero-percent containment.

Operation Section Chief Jason Coil said the wind is moving the fire to the north, away from Crown King, but the flames are moving towards communication towers, which firefighters are trying to save. 

There is still a mandatory evacuation for residents of the historic mining town and the surrounding areas.

Marina Taddai was staying with a friend when the wildfire broke out. She brought her friend's 4 dogs and 4 cats down to a shelter run by Animal Disasters Services.

"We saw the fire just kept coming," said Taddai. "So we had to take care of these little creatures."

As the Gladiator Fire eats up Ponderosa Pine and Chaparral, fire crews from all over the state and the country are coming in to help. Some are from Phoenix and others are from as far away as New York.

"It's a big deal," Danny Youngson, a New York Firefighter. "It's payback. They were part of 9/11 for New York. They're the ones that brought order to the city, and it's nice to repay the Southwest."

Fire officials say the Gladiator Fire started as a house fire in the area, and expanded from there.

As for the Bull Flat Fire, winds have fueled the flames on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. It has burned more than 1,300 acres. The fire is mainly burning in brush, grass and dead and down fuels. The fire started in Canyon Creek and Hells Canyon on May 10.

Tuesday afternoon, there was the announcement that another fire had started. It's called the Green Fire. It is burning southeast of Christopher Creek, about 1 mile south of Highway 260.