Gladiator Fire burns 2 more structures; winds expected to kick up

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on May 22, 2012 at 8:16 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 22 at 8:21 AM

CROWN KING, Ariz. -- The Gladiator Fire has grown by 1,000 acres and claimed two more structures as it made its way closer and closer to essential communications towers in Crown King.

With the total acreage at just under 15,000 (about 22 square miles), containment has grown to nearly 20 percent as more crews joined the battle Monday.

"The north part of where the towers are is completely black," Incident Management Team spokesman Art Morrison said Tuesday morning. "In other words, the fire has crept right up to our fire line, and so that's secure."

Morrison said the teams on the fire lines overnight worked on the west flank of the fire. Seven hot-shot crews were going to be working in that area Tuesday.

"That's what we're really going to try to secure today," Morrison said.

The flames have already come within 100 yards -- the length of a football field -- of the towers.

"The main concern would be spot fires getting over the fire line," Morrison explained. "That's why we have all those crews posted up there."

The fire claimed two more structures Monday, bring the total number of structures lost to six.

Morrison said it could be at least another week, possibly two, before firefighters get the Gladiator Fire fully contained.

The winds that have fueled the flames pretty much since the fire started more than a week ago are expected to kick up again Tuesday afternoon. A Fire weather Warning is in place for the Crown King area, which remains under an evacuation order.

That Fire Weather Warning means temperatures will be high, relatively humidity will be low and winds gusts of up to 35 mph will fan the flames. That combination is a recipe for extreme fire behavior.

"That spot fire thing is always the threat," Morrison said.

"Despite a top-of-the-scale Haines Index, crews made good progress, and aircraft were used to good effect [Monday]," according the management team. The Haines Index is a weather model developed in the late '80s to measure the potential for rapid fire growth.

The Gladiator Fire started Sunday, May 13 as a house fire. Two of the six structures burned were involved in that initial fire.

More than 1,150 personnel have been assigned to the Gladiator Fire.

There will be another community information session Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Mayer High School, which is serving as the command center for fire managers.

For more information about roadblocks and evacuations call the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office at 928-713-2709.

For more information on the Gladiator Fire visit www.inciweb.org or www.wildlandfire.az.gov.

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