Cactus Fire on Bush Highway expected to grow with planned burn, containment possible

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A view of the Cactus Fire on Thursday morning (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A view of the Cactus Fire on Thursday morning (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: MCSO) (Source: MCSO)

A brush fire that sparked Tuesday along the Bush Highway has swelled to 500 acres, and forest officials now say the fire is human-caused.

The fire is expected to grow even more, possibly to 700 acres, with a planned controlled burn that should give firefighters an edge. The hope was that the fire will be mostly contained sometime Thursday, yet containment is still only at 30 percent. 

The fire broke out near milepost 23, which is near the Salt River tubing area.

[Slideshow: Cactus Fire burns in East Valley]

Windy and dry conditions have not helped crews in their battle to douse the flames. Firefighters worked Wednesday night to secure fire lines around the north and east side of the fire. 

Firefighters are doing a controlled burn on Thursday to cut off the fire. Because of that, brush fire will likely grow to 750 acres. A lot of smoke is expected in that area, especially due to the windy conditions expected Thursday and Friday. There are areas of unburned fuels in the interior of the fire area, which may continue to put up smoke as they burn.  

"It's alarming," said a bicyclist who lives in the area. "You never want to see a wildfire break out, especially close to homes, close to where people go hiking."

More than 100 firefighters and two hot shot crews are fighting the fire.

"We're very thankful for all the guys who go out and support, all the firefighters," the cyclist told us. "They're going to try to put it out and we're going to trust that they do their job."

Bush Highway remains closed between Power and Usery Park roads. Three popular day use recreation sites, Granite Reef, Coon's Bluff, and Phon D Sutton, are currently closed because of the Cactus fire.

"We stayed around all night to make sure it didn't get bigger," said another resident. "The power of nature? It's a force. It's scary."

Firefighters have been able to protect the developed recreation sites, have kept the fire away from utility lines, and have successfully kept the fire south of the Salt River and north of Mesa neighborhoods.

While no structures are threatened, the herd of wild horses that live in that area is.The animals instinctively fear fire, and the smell of it is everywhere right now.

The biggest concern is that a horse might injure itself while running from the smoke and flames.

“[Horses] can panic,” the news released from the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group explained. “The river terrain is treacherous and anything can happen when they are in a panic, they can break their legs, get entangled in fencing or babies can possibly [lose] their bands while they are running away.”

[READ MORE: Cactus Fire threatening Salt River wild horses]

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