Photos: Strong winds help firefighters take on Gladiator Fire

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by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

Video report by Bruce Haffner

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Updated Thursday, May 24 at 9:40 AM

CROWN KING, Ariz. -- Strong winds actually helped firefighters battling the Gladiator Fire on Wednesday by blowing the fire back into areas already burned.

The size of the fire barely grew, and is at 16,240 acres. Containment increased to 30-percent as of Wednesday night.

For 10 days, people north of the Valley could see plumes of smoke rising above the Bradshaw Mountains, but Wednesday morning, they woke to an encouraging sight. The smoke dissipated into a thin haze. 

Still, fire fighters caution: the Gladiator Fire is not out. The ground in the burned areas of the Prescott National Forest is still hot, and root systems are still burning.

"All it takes is a single ember to fly up and jump a containment line," warned Brad Pitassi, a fire information officer.

The southwest corner of the fire is particularly at risk.

"We're still expecting three more days of red flag warnings," he told a crowd of evacuees and homeowners at the fire base came in Spring Valley.

Other fire experts echoed his statements.

"We're still looking at 40 mile per hour winds. So even though we don't see columns of smoke, it doesn't mean we're out of the threat or that the fire is completely over," said Kristen Allison, a fire behavior analyst.

Meteorologists working for the US Forest Service said the winds might shift direction Friday, and could allow the fire to begin growing again.

Evacuees still have no idea when they will be allowed home.  An evacuation order remains in effect for the community of Crown King and the Pine Flat, Battle Flat, and Turkey Creek areas.

In addition to the six homes burned, the fire also destroyed power lines to Crown King. APS had crews in the historic mining town Wednesday working on restoring electricity.

The Gladiator Fire has been burning since May 13. The blaze started when a fire broke out at a structure on private property.

For more information about the Gladiator Fire and restrictions in the area visit www.wildlandfire.az.gov or www.inciweb.org.

 

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