Gladiator Fire forces almost everyone out of Crown King

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

CROWN KING, Ariz. -- Crews from around the Southwest continue arriving to the Prescott National Forest to fight the growing Gladiator Fire.

Flames have burned three buildings, and are threatening the small mountain town of Crown King.

Yavapai County officials say the town's roughly 350 permanent and seasonal residents escaped unharmed.

While Crown King is under a mandatory evacuation order, some staff at the saloon and general store were allowed to stay to cook and care for the growing number of fire-fighters.

"This morning they were cooking breakfast at 3 a.m.," said Melinda Ripley, a Crown King resident,

"They're scared, but want to make sure our guys are fed."

Ripley owns a 138-year-old home in Crown King, which has survived several forest fires. The last one, in 2008, stopped just short of the historic mining town.

By Monday night, US Forest Service officials estimated the fire at 1,300 acres, or about two square miles.

Two helicopters and three air tankers are working with the crews on the ground.

Most of the evacuees are staying with family and friends, according to officials, but several are camped out in the small town of Cleator.

It's as close as they are allowed to their homes for now, and about 10 miles down a dirt road from the fire itself.

The fire began as a house fire, and spread to the surrounding forest on Sunday.

Authorities say it was not intentional.