Another Arizona community evacuated due to Gladiator Fire

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

CROWN KING, Ariz. -- The Gladiator Fire has grown to 12,898 acres, and forced another Arizona community out of their homes.

On Friday, those living in Pine Flats were ordered to evacuate the town as the blaze moved closer.  The Turkey Creek area is also under evacuation orders.

“It puts a hole in your heart. It’s very depressing,” said Pine Flats resident John Stephens.

Officials said as of Friday evening the majority of Pine Flats’ residents had left, although there were a few people who had yet to heed the warning.

Strong winds pushed the Gladiator Fire further north and west.  The gusts were so strong that they grounded the air tankers and helicopters for most of the afternoon.

The fire, which is now 10% contained, has consumed more than 20 square miles of the Prescott National Forest.

At least four buildings have burned.  They include three homes and a trailer.   Fire officials say the official number of structures affected is "unknown," since they have not been able to survey the  burned areas.

Winds are expected to be calmer this weekend, but fire fighters say that, too, poses a problem.   The fire will become more "terrain-driven," and could creep through a valley which would lead the flames to the base of a mountain which contains several communication towers.  The towers belong to Verizon, radio stations, government agencies, and others.  

The Gladiator Fire remains the top priority fire in the country.  The number of fire fighters and support staff working it is now 882.

Residents of the recently evacuated Crown King were slightly more fortunate on Friday, as the strong winds blew the Gladiator Fire away from town.

“Crown King seems to be in pretty good shape at this point. The fire lines have been strengthened there,” fire spokesman Gerry Perry said.

With the Gladiator Fire still burning, residents in the area remain concerned about the place they call home.

“I would have no idea what to do next. Where do you go after you’ve lived in a place for 27 years,” Crown King evacuee Willie Cantrell asked.

Friday night, the cost of fighting the fire passed $4 million.

For more information about the Gladiator Fire visit www.azfireinfo.com/links.asp#Smoke.