Flames shift, Gladiator Fire crew has close call

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Gladiator Fire Gladiator Fire

A crew battling the Gladiator Fire in communities north of Phoenix was almost trapped overnight when flames suddenly changed direction and headed their way.

The 20 firefighters were doing some burnout down the side of a canyon, according to an incident statement. The fire was already burning below them. The wind kicked up, flames shifted and that's when they knew it was time to get out of there.

At least three people who were closest to the fire had to actually leave their bags behind to get out of there, the statement said.

"You have to understand they left fast, they were getting out of there, but again nobody go hurt," said Incident Commander Joe Reinarz. "They were doing what they were supposed to, and they got out of there."

The incident happened around 2 a.m.

By daylight Sunday, other fire crews were taking advantage of mild winds as they worked to build protection lines on key flanks of the nearly 13,200-acre blaze.

The Gladiator Fire, burning about 85 miles north of Phoenix, was still several miles away from homes.

Crews were building protection lines and using aircraft to drop water and retardant on the fire in anticipation of stronger winds next week.

Four homes have been destroyed since the fire began a week ago.

It was 12 percent contained.

An evacuation order remains in effect for the community of Crown King, and the Battle Flat, Pine Flat and Turkey Creek areas, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office said.

Evacuees gathered around the latest fire map Saturday evening, hoping to see that the fingers of the flames have not reached their community. Fire crews announced that no more homes had been lost and with calmer winds they finally got ahead of the fire.

Fire crews feel things are shored up as much as possible on the south around Crown King, and with the fire lines holding they are now attacking the fire from the north.

Planes and helicopters were constantly making drops on the fire, reducing its intensity so crews could work right on the fire line getting it contained.

Red Cross updates relief available for evacuees

The Red Cross is converting its overnight shelter to a reception and care center, which will provide snacks, water and a place to rest during the day. The Red Cross Reception and Care Center opened at Mayer Elementary School, 12606 E. Main St. in Mayer, on Friday at 10 a.m. and will stay open until 5 p.m. each day until further notice. There will be no overnight accommodations there, but if evacuees need overnight sheltering, the Red Cross will convert the center to a shelter within minutes.

The Red Cross telephone number for anyone who needs help in the area is 928-237-6751 or 1-800-842-7349.

Victim Relief Ministries volunteers will provide emotional support at the Red Cross Reception and Care Center as needed.

Animal Disaster Services volunteers are sheltering household pets and livestock at the Mayer High School Agricultural Building in Spring Valley. Volunteers care for animals around the clock, and food, water, leashes and crates are available. Volunteers will administer medications and special diets if they are provided. Anyone who wants to assist as a volunteer is encouraged to stop by the agricultural building.

The Crown King Chamber of Commerce said people who wish to help the victims of the fire can go to Wells Fargo and donate to the Crown King Gladiator Fire Resident/Business Account. The number is 260-786-4259.

Road closures identified

Here is a list of road closures for the Gladiator Fire as of Sunday:

  • All roads leading into the community of Crown King are closed.
  • Cleator - Crown King Road (County Road 59) is closed at Cleator.
  • Senator Highway to Crown King (County Road 52) is closed at the junction with Poland Rd. (County Road 58).
  • Forest Road 192 is closed.
  • Forest Road 711 is closed south of the Forest boundary at Cow Creek.
  • Mayer-Bolander Road (County Road 177) is closed at the Forest Boundary.
  • Forest Road 362 is closed south of the Forest boundary at Wagner.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.