Central Fire outside of Phoenix joins thousands of acres already burning in Arizona

Almost 4,000 acres were on fire Monday when the central fire burned outside Phoenix, adding hundreds of thousands of acres that were already burning in nearby national forests.

The central fire was zero percent contained as firefighters sought to protect the structures by preventing the flames from spreading south. The forest fire appears to be moving north toward New River Mesa, according to InciWeb, the US Forest Service’s wildfire information site. USA

Powered by dry scrub and tall grass, the fire started on state lands Saturday, but has since moved to the Tonto National Forest region as it continues to grow.

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The central fire broke out a week after the Bush fire took root in the national forest, about 22 miles northeast of Mesa. The Bush fire was 42 percent contained Monday, and 184,086 acres were reported to have been burned.

A man observes that part of the Bush fire is burning through the Tonto National Forest from Apache Junction, Arizona, on Tuesday June 16, 2020.Matt York / AP

The National Weather Service said Sunday that the Bush fire was the fifth largest in the state’s history, and has continued to grow since then.

According to InciWeb, both fires appear to have been caused by humans. Temperatures as high as 110 degrees have not been helpful in containing them.

An additional 51,628 acres are being burned in the Coronado National Forest in the Bighorn fire, which started June 5 after a lightning strike in the Catalina Mountains, northwest of Tucson. The fire was contained only 16 percent on Monday, more than two weeks later.

So far in 2020, three times more acres have been burned in Arizona than in all of 2019, the Department of Forest and Fire Management said Monday.

While much of the state’s wilderness and forest lands are on fire, Arizona is also arguing with a further surge in coronavirus cases. The increase has limited beds available in intensive care units across the state.