Cave Creek Complex Fire Now at 140,000 Acres in Arizona

CAVE CREEK, Ariz. (AP) -- A lightning-sparked fire has grown to 140,000 acres as it keeps pushing northward, and crews are trying to keep the flames from reaching the small towns of Pine and Strawberry.

No evacuations have been ordered, and incident commander Dan Oltrogge said the Cave Creek Complex fire is at least 20 miles from Camp Verde and 12 miles from the point when evacuations may be necessary.

But if the fire crosses the Verde River, authorities say it could push into a canyon and race into Pine and Strawberry _ towns of less than 5,000 year-round residents.

Oltrogge told a group of about 50 Camp Verde area residents Tuesday night that there's a 25 percent chance the fire could jump the river.

Two Type 1 teams are managing the southern and northern halves of the fire, and more than 850 personnel including 15 hotshot crews, four bulldozers and 27 engines are fighting the blaze from the ground with 12 helicopters dropping water and slurry from above.

The fire began on June 21 near Cave Creek and within days forced the evacuations of some 250 homes northeast of Phoenix. Eleven homes and three storage sheds were destroyed in the area.

The blaze is back to being 20 percent contained. It had been 25 percent contained but windy conditions Tuesday caused the fire to behave erratically and grow significantly, according to fire officials.

Meanwhile, the Three Complex fire burning near Roosevelt Dam remained at 19,370 acres and was 40 percent contained Tuesday with full containment expected Thursday.

A line had already been built around the blaze and firefighters mopped up the fire and patrolled the lines Tuesday, especially in the northern flanks about 5 miles away from the Punkin Center and Tonto Basin areas. No structures were threatened by the fire.