Crews getting a handle on Kearny River Fire - - The News for South Mississippi

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Crews getting a handle on Kearny River Fire

(Source: Melinda Abarca) (Source: Melinda Abarca)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Fire crews at Kearny River Fire on Thursday morning, June 18, 2015. (Source: Kraig Stern, KPHO/KTVK) Fire crews at Kearny River Fire on Thursday morning, June 18, 2015. (Source: Kraig Stern, KPHO/KTVK)
Kearny River Fire on Thursday morning (Source: Kraig Stern, KPHO/KTVK) Kearny River Fire on Thursday morning (Source: Kraig Stern, KPHO/KTVK)

After several days of concern about the wind, heat and terrain, fire crews are getting a handle on the Kearny River Fire, which continues to burn southeast of the Valley.

As of Friday night, the fire had grown 1,428 acres, and containment was at 40 percent. The weather, however, could still be an issue.

The brush fire has burned three homes, one car and two outbuildings, and forced the evacuation of about 300 residents near the town of Kearny since it started Wednesday morning. 

Most residents have been allowed to return to their homes. Stevens Trailer Park was still evacuated Thursday afternoon and fire officials said they are keeping a close eye on the Riverside area. The evacuation order has since been lifted.

[RELATED: Residents hopeful Kearny River Fire will stay away from homes]

"This is a very interesting fire because it's kind of burning up the river so it's really contained within the riverbed, but at the same time we can't put a number on it yet," Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said.

The Kearny River Fire is burning salt cedars in the river bottom. Reichling said the same type of fuels burned in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

"These are very volatile fuels in here," Reichling said. "It's very thick and wooded down in the bottom of the river area."

Reichling said the salt cedars reach a certain ignition temperature and then they explode like gasoline.

"As the fires burn along the ground they'll get up into those trees, they'll get super heated and they'll explode, and it will die right down once that fuel's been burned," he said.

Reichling said it is very dangerous for the crews and officials are stressing to firefighters to have evacuation routes and to have good lookouts communicating with ground crews working on the line.

[RELATED: Former Kearny firefighter watching Kearny River Fire closely]

Some firefighters who faced triple-digit temperatures have suffered heat-related problems but there are no serious injuries. Reichling said officials are stressing to the crews to stay hydrated and they're rotating the crews so they don't get overheated.

Reichling said it is challenging getting resources to the fire. Two single-engine air tankers, two helicopters, 20 engines, five hand crews and five water tenders were on scene Wednesday. The helicopters were taking water from a local lake to drop on the fire. 

About 200 firefighters have kept it burning away from the town of Kearny.

Officials plan to perform back-burning Thursday night.

[RELATED: How wildfires get their names]

The smoke plume from the fire was visible for miles and, according to the National Weather Service office in Tucson, was detected by radar. That smoke has affected visibility in the area.

The shifting fire caused authorities to move the emergency shelter to the elementary school in Superior. The Red Cross is assisting fire victims.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire.

State Route 177 was closed for a time but has since reopened to traffic.

Kearny is about 90 minutes east of Phoenix. It has a population of about 2,000 people.

Gov. Doug Ducey released the following statement:

"My office is in close communication with emergency management officials as they work to contain and extinguish this fire. My thoughts and prayers are with the firefighters working diligently to contain the fire and the Arizonans who have been displaced. We will continue to monitor the fire and provide any and all resources necessary to extinguish it."

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