TONTO BASIN — A 175-acre wildfire is burning northeast of Phoenix in Gila County and has forced some evacuations, according to fire officials.
The Punkin wildfire, first called the Pumpkin Fire, was reported Monday afternoon near Tonto Basin, a census-designated town north of Tonto National Forest and Roosevelt Lake.
The Arizona State Forestry said the Gila County Sheriff’s Office conducted evacuations in the area. While GCSO didn't give an exact number of people evacuated, the Red Cross said Monday afternoon that some 50 homes were "immediately threatened."
In a tweet Tuesday, The Arizona State Forestry said the fire is 40% contained and the cause of the fire was determined to have started by escaped pile burn on private land.
Yesterday’s fire near Tonto Basin/Punkin Center-area mapped at 305 acres & is 40% contained. #AZForestry investigator determined fire started by escaped pile burn on private land. CORRECTION to name - #PunkinFire #GilaCounty #AZFire pic.twitter.com/Pbs2l7TdYG— AZ State Forestry (@azstateforestry) March 9, 2021
State Forestry now says forward progress on the fire has been stopped, but evacuations remain in place.
GCSO has issued a "GO" evacuation order for people in the area of Punkin Center. Officials say the area is "from old highway 188 to the transfer station road, between highway 188 and Tonto creek."
Hand crews and fire engines responded to fight the fire and crews are expected to remain in the area for several days.
In a tweet, the Red Cross said an evacuation center is being set up at the Payson Senior Center for residents who've been forced to leave their homes.
The Central & Northern Red Cross Chapter will open an Evacuation Center for the #Pumpkinfire in the Tonto Basin area, around 4 p.m. at the Payson Senior Center, 512 W. Main St., Payson, Az. 85541. The fire is at least 60 acres with approximately 50 homes immediately threatened. pic.twitter.com/bnJnJ2iliH— Red Cross AZ (@RedCrossAZ) March 8, 2021
State Route 188, which runs north to south between Tonto Basin and Roosevelt, was closed for several hours in the area but has since reopened.