MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Bush Fire has now burned over 186,000 acres with 42% containment in the Tonto National Forest as of Monday afternoon, according to fire officials. It is now the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona history.
Some residents who were evacuated were able to start returning home around 9 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Gila County Sheriff's Office.
More areas including Sunflower and Apache Lakes had evacuation orders lifted on Tuesday afternoon.
People who live south of 188 allowed to return home today @ 9am according to #BushFire incident command & GCSO. Urged to stay on SET mode. Re-evacuation a possibility. #AZFamily ▪️Tonto Basin▪️Punkin Center▪️Pioneer Pass▪️Deer Creek▪️Brownsville▪️Jakes Corner▪️Slate Creek— Maria Hechanova (@MariaHechanova) June 21, 2020
Fire officials determined that conditions are favorable for the safe return of citizens in the following areas:
- Tonto Basin
- Punkin Center
- Pioneer Pass
- Slate Creek
- Jake's Corner
Residents in the following communities remain under "Go" evacuation notices, which means danger in that area is imminent and life-threatening:
- Apache Lake
People living in the communities below are in "Ready" evacuation mode, which means to be aware of the hazards that can threaten your community:
- 76 Ranch
- BT Ranch
- Deer Creek
Despite evacuation announcements for areas in the path of the Bush Fire, some business owners have decided to stay put.
The evacuation orders mean:
- Residents should evacuate immediately to a shelter or with family/friends outside of the affected area. Residents should avoid close contact with those who are sick and should practice public health recommendations when relocating.
- If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand emergency services may not be able to assist you further.
- Follow instructions from emergency personnel, stay on designated evacuation routes and avoid closed areas.
By noon on Tuesday, June 23, State Route 188, between SR 87 south of Payson and SR 88 at Roosevelt Dam, will open to all traffic in both directions, according to Gila County Sheriff's Office. The office also confirmed that SR 87 will be open in both directions. However, the northbound traffic on SR 87 will be restricted to one lane. Additionally, SR 88 access to Apache Lake will be open in both directions. There will still be forest closures in the area.
There are also closures of multiple recreation sites along the Lower Salt River, including Saguaro Lake, Butcher Jones, Pobrecito, Lower Sycamore, Four Peaks and Sugarloaf recreation areas.
The Red Cross set up a shelter at Lee Kornegay School in Miami. There is also a shelter at the Payson Senior Center. But the pandemic has meant shelter changes for evacuees. No one is allowed to stay overnight in shelters anymore. Officials will need to pay for lodging for those forced from their homes. The shelter is set up for rest, food and water only. People are screened as they enter, and masks are mandatory. About a dozen people have stopped by the Red Cross shelter. Find your relocation area here.
"It's just a great place to go in there, cool off, get some water, snacks and get some information," said Jim Gilloon with the Red Cross.
State fire agencies created an official Facebook page to help keep people informed with the latest updates on the Bush Fire.
Officials with the Tonto National Forest say the human-caused fire began June 20 around 2 p.m., west of SR 87 in the Sugarloaf and Four Peaks Recreation areas. The blaze started due to a vehicle fire on the side of SR 87, officials confirm.
A Facebook page has been set up to stream important updates and community meetings related to the Bush Fire.