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The Latest: Wildfire snarls I-17 traffic north of Phoenix

June 23, 2019

SUPERIOR, Ariz. (AP) — The Latest on wildfires burning in national forests in the Phoenix area (all times local):

5 p.m.

Authorities say a fire east of Interstate 17 north of Phoenix caused traffic backups of several miles and prompted warnings from federal officials for motorists to use caution because of smoke and reduced visibility.

Incident commanders posted a summary Saturday saying the fire was spotted Friday afternoon adjacent to the freeway about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) south of Cordes Lakes. That’s nearly 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Phoenix.

Officials say the fire burned a little more than 2 square miles (5.2 square kilometers) into the Agua Fria National Monument.

No structures or communities were threatened. Several roads and trails were closed.

About 150 firefighters gained 20% containment of the fire in grass and brush on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land.

The cause of the fire was being investigated, but it was believed to have been started by a human.

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4:10 p.m.

Hot, dry winds fanned a wildfire in a national forest east of Phoenix, where fire officials say forecasts call for gusts to diminish.

A fire spokesman says about 700 homes remain evacuated because of the fire in Tonto National Forest near Superior and Roosevelt Lake.

No homes have been damaged, and no serious injuries are reported.

The fire grew from about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) on Friday to nearly 125 square miles (325 square kilometers) on Saturday.

Fire spokesman Dick Fleishman says that includes areas charred by firefighters to starve the blaze of fuel.

Containment has been decreased to about 34%.

About 1,100 firefighters are aided by helicopters and air tankers, working to protect a hydropower dam and key high-voltage power lines supplying the Phoenix area.

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10:25 a.m.

Hot, dry winds are fanning a wildfire in a national forest east of Phoenix, but fire officials haven’t ordered more residents to leave an area where than the 700 homes are already evacuated.

Fire spokesman Dick Fleishman said Saturday the fire in Tonto National Forest near Roosevelt Lake covers nearly 125 square miles (325 square kilometers), including areas charred by firefighters to starve the blaze of fuel.

That’s up from about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) reported Friday.

No homes have burned and no serious injuries are reported.

Fleishman says about 1,100 firefighters are battling flames in what he calls rugged “billy goat” country.

The fire is about 42% contained and burning north and east.

Smoke from the massive blaze has prompted health warnings in Arizona and New Mexico.

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