SUPERIOR — The Telegraph Fire grew rapidly overnight and has connected with the Mescal Fire burning to the east.
Telegraph Fire officials reported Tuesday morning that the fire had grown to 123,078 acres and was now 68% contained. On Monday the fire had burned 91,277 acres and was 74% contained.
“Yesterday and in the past 48 hours, we’ve experienced some pretty extreme fire behavior with the fire weather conditions in the area,” said Telegraph Planning Operations Chief Chad Rice.
State Route 77 was impacted seriously over the previous 48 hours with extreme fire behavior, he said.
State Route 77 is closed in both directions between U.S. 70 and State Route 177 in Winkelman due to the fire, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. There is no estimated time to reopen the roadway.
The firefight in El Capitan in the last 24 hours was very extreme, Rice said. The fire would flow in from both the north and the west, causing firefighters to move in to protected structures in the area and then retreat as the conditions changed rapidly back and forth.
“Firefighter safety is our No. 1 priority,” he said. “So making sure the ingress and egress of these crews throughout the shift was critical.”
However, crews did have a lot of success in the area, Rice said. Crews moved back into the area Tuesday morning to assess the infrastructure in the El Capitan area and found some severe impacts to the highway, some of the signage and some private property in the area.
Crews will focus on securing the El Capitan area from fire, mopping up and working to further protect buildings in the area, he said.
Crews do not expect a lot of growth by the fire to the north, Rice said. However, they are expecting the fire to grow to the south with the very hot temperatures and very low humidity.
In the areas south of Globe, including Icehouse and Six Shooter canyons, night crews had a lot of success limiting fire growth to the north, he said. In the Beverly Hills areas, crews were able to connect the Telegraph Fire to the Mescal Fire in hopes of slowing the spread of the fire. Residents of Globe may continue to see smoke from the part of the fire that is burning on Pinal and Signal peaks, Rice said.
The communities of El Capitan, Dripping Springs, Wind Spirit, Hagen Ranch, Slash S Ranch, Government Springs and Beverly Hills are still at a “Go” status, which means that residents should evacuate and stay away from the area.
Temporary shelters have been set up at High Desert Middle School and the Gilson Wash Activity Center. Small animals can be taken to the Gila County Animal Care and Control Center and livestock can be taken to the Apache Gold Pavilion. The Apache Gold Casino RV Park is accepting evacuees with camper trailers.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe Emergency Response Commission has an information line for residents at 928-475-2008. Gila County residents can call the Gila County Emergency Management call center between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for information at 928-910-4009.
The Salvation Army has opened a community resource center for residents in need of assistance or who would like to donate to others. The center is located in the old Safeway building at 100 S. Ragus Road in Claypool. Anyone with questions or donations can call 602-267-4290.
The communities of Top-of-the-World, Bellevue, Oak Flat and Skill Set are listed in a “Set” status, which means that residents should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Superior, Globe, Pinto, Miami, Carlotta, Central Heights, Claypool and Battle Axe are all at a “Ready” status, which means that the danger to that area has mostly passed but residents should be ready in case conditions change.
Fire officials will hold a Facebook Live event at 6 p.m. on the Telegraph Fire Information Facebook page.
Smoke from the fire is expected to drift west into central Arizona.
The Telegraph Fire started around 1:30 p.m. on June 4 south of Superior and is believed to be human caused. The fire has burned 22 structures.
The Mescal Fire started around 11 a.m. on June 1 southeast of Globe. It has burned more than 72,250 acres. The cause of the Mescal Fire is under investigation.