Gusty winds make it tough on those battling the Sunflower Fire


by Mike Gertzman

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Sunflower Fire
21 miles south of Payson
Saturday May 12th, 2012 approx. 10:25 AM
15 crews, 17 engines, 2 dozers, 7 water tenders
Available Air Support:
7 helicopters, 6 air tankers
Under investigation
Grass, chaparral, pinyon pine, heavy Arizona cypress trees in the southwest corner.
Fire behavior:
Active fire behavior in pockets of unburned fuel. Fire burned actively through shrub/ brush during burnout operations Thursday.
Burnout operations are occurring along FR 627 continuing toward FR 393.
Growth Potential:
Steep, rugged
Map: Sunflower Fire

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PAYSON, Ariz. -- The Sunflower Fire near Payson has grown to more than 14,000 acres. It is now 15 percent contained.

Hot, dry temperatures, low humidity and strong, gusty winds forecast for today have resulted in a “red flag” warning for Friday.

The warning means that conditions are favorable for extreme fire behavior.

On Friday morning the fire was burning in Sunflower Canyon. There are some structures in that canyon that could be in danger.

Firefighters are focusing on back burning operations in hopes of containing the fire and pushing it in the direction that they want it to go. They're hoping to anchor it to the old Basin Fire boundary.

Power lines in the area appear to be safe from the flames. The fire is not affecting travel on SR 87, the Beeline Highway.

To the north, the Sunflower Fire has already bumped against the boundary of the old Willow Fire.

As the fire merges with areas that have previously burned, fuels are limited and fire activity is greatly reduced.

The Payson Rodeo and other local events are expected to draw participants and spectators, increasing traffic on State Route 87.

Residents and visitors are urged to be alert to hazardous driving conditions possibly resulting from smoke in the area.

Also, please be aware of additional traffic on the roadway as fire personnel and vehicles move to and from their assignments. Fire restrictions and fire area closures remain in effect until further notice.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.