Originally Published: February 20, 2014 6 a.m.
PAULDEN, Arizona - An agricultural burn on state trust lands in Paulden turned into a wind-whipped wildfire Wednesday that threatened homes.
The grass fire grew to 100 acres before Chino Valley Fire District crews were able to surround it at 1:30 p.m., an hour after they arrived.
Several homes on Runway Road west of Highway 89 near Big Chino Road were threatened as the flames came within 200 feet of two of them, CVFD Battalion Chief Mat Mayhall said.
The rancher who leases nearby state trust lands told firefighters he was burning weeds when he lost control, Mayhall said.
"On days like today when it's dry and windy, we don't let people have burn permits," Mayhall said. The district already has had several no-burn days the last few weeks because of the unusually warm and dry weather.
The state trust lands were outside the district, but CVFD firefighters quickly decided to attack the Runway Fire since it threatened homes inside their district, Mayhall said. About 20 firefighters used six engines and two water tenders.
Firefighters contained the blaze just in time to keep it from getting into taller dry grass that would have resulted in extreme fire spread, CVFD Public Information Officer Rob Zazueta said.
Southwest winds were steady at 20-25 mph and gusting to 37 at the Prescott airport about 20 miles south of the fire Wednesday afternoon as a cold front passed through.
The region has been unusually warm the last few weeks and extremely dry all winter. Prescott has recorded only 0.02 inches of rain since Dec. 21.
"This is a time of year we don't typically get wildland fires," Mayhall said.
Firefighters already are wondering what they will face when spring arrives.
It's a "very dangerous environment that could bring a severe fire season," Zazueta said.
Reporter Scott Orr contributed to this story.