Evacuations lifted for 190,200-acre 'Bush Fire' in Tonto National Forest; wildfire now 98% contained

There is good news for people living near the Bush Fire. The Gila County Sheriff's Office said the following evacuated communities may return home on Sunday, June 21st at 9 a.m. Only residents will be allowed back home and will need to show proof of residency:

  • Tonto Basin
  • Punkin Center
  • Pioneer Pass
  • Brownsville
  • State Creek
  • Jakes Corner

The communities will continue being in a "set" advisory, meaning they should prepare to evacuate if fire conditions become unfavorable again.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday Sunflower and Apache Lake residents will be allowed to return home.

As of June 29, Inciweb showed that the fire has burned 193,455 acres of land since June 13 and is 98% contained. Over 150 personnel are assigned to fight the fire.

A top-tier management team assumed command of firefighters battling Arizona’s largest current wildfire because of the fire’s complexity and because the team has more specialized and experienced personnel than the managers that were overseeing the effort, team spokesman Dee Hines said.

Officials say the fire is human-caused and believed to have been started by a car fire.

Community members react

“It is a crazy time," Shelley Allison said. "People are scared about COVID, and now we have to leave our house. Where do we go? How do we stay safe going?”

She's the store manager of Tonto Basin Marketplace. She says with the fire miles away, people are rushing in to stock up.

“Everyone is confused. They don’t know what’s going on. They are trying to get groceries so they can bunker down and fuel so they can evacuate," Allison explained.

Vic Romano was driving through the area when he learned of the highway closure. “It is going to extend my vacation," he said.

He's from Durango, Colorado and one of the many drivers having to come up with a new plan to get home.

"It doesn't feel real. It feels like a movie," said Tammy Swanson, who had to leave her home in Punkin Center due to the fire. Residents in her area were told to leave on Monday.

Swanson said it's the first time she has had to do so.

"I didn't have a place to go. I didn't have the money, and I didn't have no place to go. I was emotional. I told the sheriff that, and he said the Red Cross is here for you," said Swanson.

Currently, Swanson is in Globe, where she, along with her son and pets are staying at for now.

"People don't know how hard it is until they experience it," Swanson said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.