Central Fire outside Phoenix adds to thousands of acres already ablaze in Arizona

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Nearly 4,000 acres were aflame Monday as the Central Fire burned outside Phoenix, adding to hundreds of thousands of acres already on fire in the nearby national forests.

The Central Fire was zero percent contained as firefighters sought to protect structures by keeping the flames from spreading south. The wildfire seems to be moving north, toward the New River Mesa, according to InciWeb, the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire information site.

Fueled by dry brush and tall grass, the blaze began Saturday on state land, but it has since moved into the Tonto National Forest region as it continues to grow.

The Central Fire erupted a week after the Bush Fire took root in the national forest, about 22 miles northeast of Mesa. The Bush Fire was about 42 percent contained Monday, with 184,086 acres reported to have been burned.

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

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

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

So far in 2020, three times as many acres have burned in Arizona as in all of 2019, the Department of Forestry and Fire Management said Monday.

While so much of the state’s desert and forestland burn, Arizona is also wrangling with a new uptick in coronavirus cases. The surge has limited the available beds in intensive care units around the state.