Central Fire

Central Fire burns more than 500 acres near New River over the weekend


NEW RIVER – A first-alarm brush fire that ignited on Saturday, July 20, near New River and Mingus roads, which is north of the Wrangler’s Roost, has been essentially contained by state fire officials. 

Sources say that the Central Fire was human caused and burned approximately 503 acres in the Tonto National  Forest and Arizona State Trust Land.

Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical (DMFM) crews responded to the brush fire at approximately 10 a.m. and by the time firefighters arrived the blaze had already consumed about one acre.

The Central Fire burned 503 acres near New River and Mingus roads, which was near private properties and residences that border the Tonto National Forest. Rusty’s Angels Dog Sanctuary’s is one of the properties that can be seen in this aerial photo.
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management)

“It was fast moving,” DMFM spokesman Matt Wood said, who was also a firefighter on the scene.  “Wind, fuel, topography and access was an issue…basically we had everything going against us.”

Wood says first responders had trouble flanking the fire initially because of the terrain and by 11 a.m. the brush fire had been upgraded to a first-alarm fire, with Tonto National Forest firefighters arriving shortly after.

The fire progressed to the east and north away from properties, burning mostly in the Tonto National Forest. It was fueled by dried grasses and brush, especially in the hilly areas.

Units from Phoenix, Peoria, Glendale and State Forestry were also deployed to the Central Fire.

The Central Fire was 100 percent contained on July 22. Firefighters on the ground and air tankers using fire retardant, which is the red substance seen on the ground, all assisted in protecting nearby homes. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management)

“There were structures we were concerned about,” Wood said, adding that ultimately there were no evacuations ordered or structures damaged.

Flames and smoke were visible from Rusty’s Angels Senior Dog Sanctuary in New River and other nearby private properties bordering the national forest. In videos posted air tankers dropping fire suppressant could be seen flying over the sanctuary as the fire creeped towards the property.

“Today was scary and I have never been more thankful for our firefighters. They risked their lives to save ours. Those pilots are so skilled and although the reason we got to see them in action sucks it was amazing to watch,” the founder of Rusty’s Angels Emilee Spear wrote in a Facebook Post on July 20.

Spear added that everyone, retired dogs included, were safe at the sanctuary and thanked the community members that offered them help.

(Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management)

Two large air tankers and a very large air tanker were deployed to help contain the Central Fire. The communities of New River, Desert Hills and Anthem watched anxiously with locals flooding social media with photos and posts of gratitude to the fire departments for keeping their homes safe.

By Sunday, July 21, the Tonto National Forest announced on its Twitter that the fire was 80 percent contained and that the forward rate of spread had been stopped.  It is anticipated that the Central Fire will be 100 contained by July 23 (at the time this was written).

“One thing we had going for us was the Cellar Fire was winding down and they had a lot of units up there doing mop-up, since we were in first attack they were able to send us units,” he said about the hand crews that were deployed from Prescott.

Daisy Mountain’s Fire Line Medical Team that has been assigned for the past few weeks out to the Tonto National Forest in the Bartlett Lake area ended up getting deployed to their hometown to assist with the Central Fire.  The team carries portable medical equipment on a Polaris Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) so they can provide critical medical treatment to firefighters.

Photo by William Carruthers

“Tonto National Forest has been keeping them [UTV crew] busy,” Wood said.  “It’s kind of cool that they ended up in their own backyard.”

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Fire officials are reminding residents to be fire wise and be aware fire restrictions in effect across the state during the ongoing fire season.  Currently Tonto National Forest, Maricopa County and Daisy Mountain Fire District have all implemented fire restrictions that ban open burning and other activities.

For more information about visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/tonto/alerts-notices/?aid=52969.